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Rita B. Enzmann
Michael J. A I wan
Mary Alsten Johnson
Dr. Richard Raymond
Armstrong State College
A Unit of the University System of Georgia
My sincere thanks to the many students, particularly Mark Barner,
Chris Fuhrman, and Jeff Smith; and faculty, especially Mr. Art Prosser,
Mr. John Stegall, Mr. Richard Nordquist, and Dr. Robert Strozier whose
encouragement, time, and insight have made Calliope possible.
For their faithful support and genuine interest in the artistic merit of
Calliope, special credit goes to Mary Johnson, Art Consultant; Michael
Alwan, Associate Editor; and Dr. Richard Raymond, Faculty Advisor.
This first issue of Calliope is deducated to Dr. Bradford Crain, whose
interest and advice helped begin this endeavor; and to Dr. Richard Ray-
mond, whose experience, hard work, accessibility, and gentle encourage-
ment were essential in bringing Calliope to completion.
For me, being editor of Calliope has been an opportunity to learn and
grow with those around me as we selected material, overcame funding pro-
blems, space limitations, and layout deadlines. I encourage all those in-
terested, to contribute material to future issues of Calliope, and to join our
staff and help put together the next issues.
To the artists themselves, who share within the covers of this volume a
bit of magic ~ I extend my deepest appreciation. "Magic, a metaphor for
the marvelous in art, becomes a creative alternative to suicide." As we en-
joy these glimmers of magic, these echoes of old dreams and hopes new and
daring, may we each appreciate a little bit more that magic which surrounds
Quoted from a lecture by Dr. Crain to the Touchstone Club, July 10, 1983,
titled: "Masks, Mirrors, and Magic: Fantasy as Autobiography in the
works of Hesse and Yeats."
Mary Alsten Johnson
"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean 'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen 'd grain. . .
JOHN KEATS, "WHEN I HAVE FEARS'
PLACES LOST AND FOUND
Mark A. Hulme
A DAY AT THE LAKE
Claudia Turner Welch
Dana Wise Stern
STANDING AT GRADUATION
THE IDEAL MATE
HERE'S TO YOU, RACHEL!
J ana Belmoff
IF I WERE DEPRIVED
A STOP IN THE DESERT
James Land Jones
Hugh Pendexter HI
Dana Wise Stern
OF TIME AND LIZARDS— AND SEX
Jane Ann Patchak
A MAN STOOD FACING TOWARD THE STORM
Dana Wise Stern
MOUNT ST. HELENS
Michael J. A I wan
JOSEPH CONRAD'S VIEW OF MAN
IN HEART OF DARKNESS
THE MILLER, writing to HIS SISTER
WIFE OF BATH to the WIFE OF TUB,
the Wife of Bath's sister
WILLIAM FAULKNER'S METHODICAL MADNESS
TO LOOK BEYOND THE MEANING
Rita B. Enzmann
Mary Alsten Johnson
Cover and Drawings Designed By Mary Alsten Johnson
Executed By Johan Du Toit
Photograph By Mary Alsten Johnson
\ >Kq* «k T#CV frj
nov ember 1969
your long brown hair
in the sun
and our familiar path
dressed in its
and trees are
orange red gold
as we walk from school
with a birthday to celebrate
at a formica-topped table
we indulge in
full to the brim
bowls of soup
and burn our tongues
as we sip
& the clock on the kitchen stove ticks
& the kitchen is white and open
& the refrigerator hums to the beat
while we plot our course
with tarot cards
on your bed on the floor
of the tiny striped
and the cherub you sketched
from her place on the wall
as we summon spirits
with coconut incense
they mock us
but we turn away
to revel in
in cotton gowns
(soft against our skins)
we wait for darkness
you light a tiki-face candle
and the phantom dance begins
on the ceiling
fills his head
through his open eyes
a hot tear melts
from a sad
music encircles us
like smoke from a pipe
& the clock on the kitchen stove ticks
& the kitchen is white and open
& the refigerator hums to the beat
of our hearts
intertwined in sleep
in the cool
so far away
and the frozen
moon-eyed by the window
at the fallen leaves
silver in the dawn
/: Charleston, 1970
Jesus saves. Elect Wallace Drink
Dr. Pepper. Impeach Earl Warren. Slave,
nigger, negra, colored, colored-
Only, Negro, Black, nigger.
Hang high from a tree,
Hang as high as we can see,
Hang high so we can win,
Hang to save us from our sin.
Jesus saves Earl Warren.
Impeach Dr. Pepper. Earl
Warren is the road to salvation.
Impeach Jesus. Dr. Pepper saves.
Pray for George Wallace.
The warm breeze drawls around me
As I stand, near where Stede Bonnet hung,
Looking over the desolate Battery,
To where the war began.
A land broken like an old man
Across Amor on' s knee. Defeated.
An adopted son, I drink the bittersweet
Wine I do not have to drink;
I make it mine, and the red clay flows
Through my veins. I love my land:
I laugh and cry, live and die,
Hope and pray.
Great joy and great misery,
It is hard to have a history.
You were with me;
not some imagined houri:
for a segment in time
it was you.
Vanished from me,
as if some time traveler from the
fourth dimension had
whisked you away.
No, it was just he,
coming around to carry you off again,
snatching you from my fingertips
as if a paper doll.
And then it seemed
as if you had never been there
or were an imagined image
conjured from a nebulous air,
Returned to the mists
of the chanting cigarettes,
the moaning throng in orgasmic unison.
Mark A. Hulme
A Day at the Lake
This paper was written for Dr. Richard Raymond's Composition 101
class, Fall quarter, 1983.
Most of the rescue work I had done, in my years with the Coast Guard,
had been routine. Even though I wasn't always successful, I had never
allowed my personal feelings to surface. All of the training I had received
had molded me into a calm professional, and I believed that fear didn't fit
the mold. But on a warm day in 1979, Lake Huron taught me differently.
I was the crewman aboard a helicopter, sent to evacuate five people
from a boat which had been disabled by heavy seas. When we arrived, the
boat was anchored, in heavy surf, near the Canadian side of the lake. Each
wall of foaming green water drove the little craft closer to shore. The jagg-
ed rocks, along the beach, looked like buzzards waiting for a fallen animal
to die. My stomach turned at the thought of the frail vessel being ground to
splinters on those monsters. As I advised the pilot how I intended to han-
dle the rescue, the angry lake taunted us. Lifting the boat on the crest of the
wave, holding the terrified people just out of reach, it would suddenly
plunge them into a cavernous trough. The look of horror on the children's
faces made me shiver.
The plan was simple. A line, lowered to the boat, would then be tied to
the basket. As the basket was lowered on the hoist, the man would pull it
in. My hands began to tremble as I lowered the line to the helpless people
below. The weighted end of the line landed on the deck; with a vise-like
grip, the man grabbed it and held on. The pilot struggled to hold position
above the floundering vessel as I tied the line to the basket and pushed it out
the door. Although the hoist moved laboriously slow, the woman and three
children were quickly lifted into the aircraft. Leaving the man behind, we
dashed toward shore to deliver the four to safety.
Once the ambulance attendants had removed our shivering cargo, we
raced back to the battered craft. Now much closer to the waiting rocks, I
had a sinking feeling that we wouldn't get the man off in time. My sweat
soaked flight gloves made it difficult to handle the rope. With cold pincers
of fear creeping up my spine, I found myself praying for steady hands. The
man, now violently seasick, grabbed the rope in a deathgrip. He had
managed to pull the descending basket within a foot of the boat when a sud-
den shift in the waves spun the craft around. As it danced wildly on the
waves, the motor hooked the basket. I began desperately jerking the hoist
cable, trying to free it, when the boat plunged into another abysmal trough.
Stretched like a guitar string, the hoist cable strained against the sudden
weight. Suddenly, with a snap, the basket sprung free. It flew high into the
air and landed inches from the man. "Up, Up, Up," I screamed into the
headset; the pilot pulled the helicopter into a steep vertical climb. The man
was suspended in mid-air, dangling like a puppet. As the aircraft started,
slowly, toward shore, I punched the hydraulic release to reel the terrified
marionette to safety. Once he was inside the craft, I collapsed into the
The flight home and landing were uneventful. As we taxied toward our
parking spot, I tried to dry the tears that stained my cheeks. We had done
it; we had gotten them all off. The only casualty was my own self image. I
had lost my belief in the cold uncaring professional. I realized that even
professionalism requires feeling. Although I had never been in danger, I
had been as terrified as the people I was sent to rescue.
I exited the 'chopper and trudged toward the hanger. "Tough one?"
asked one of the ground crew. I looked at him for a very long second.
"Nan, piece of cake!"
To look within ourselves where answers lie,
flung far beneath the realm of easy grasp
made stronger by the wish to let them die
yet knowing life requires such dreadful tasks-
A searing pain, she feels it as before.
It grips the thought and holds it like a vise.
It lurches up then plunges down for more,
and rising brings again the unchecked cries.
She called it forth, this monster from her soul,
the choice was hers: to battle or to run.
Oh, what a price to pay for being bold!
(She chides herself for thinking she had won).
But somewhere in the calling forth, foretold
a journey started-healing had begun.
Charlie's place was dimly lit except for the stained glass hood lamp
over the pool table. A blue cloud of smoke drifted just below the hood like a
miniature afternoon cumulus from the nearby Okefenokee Swamp.
Some eighteen or twenty people sat around the bar. * 'Marty, put your
hat on right. You look stupid with it on the back of your head," noted Betty
Jean, the bartender. Buck joined in by yelling to Marty about his hat and
Marty snapped back, "Hell, you don't know what I've been doing!" A few
raised eyebrows and grinned naughtily as if they did know. Marty just
didn't want to admit it looked dumb, as Betty Jean had suggested.
Most of the eyes shifted back to the pool table where Walt, the local
eight ball champ, had just polished off J.B. for the third straight time. J.B.
dies hard. He used to be the champ 'til Walt started coming in. Since then
he'd been whipped regular - I mean like eleven of every twelve games.
Sometime back in May when J.B. got whipped bad for the first time, he
blamed it on a "cigar ash in his eye" - nearly everybody believed it. Until
then he'd hardly ever lost. Then it was the damn new band that played Sun-
day through Wednesday - Woody's Shed, they were called. J.B. called
them "pecker woods" and they were bad ~ a fiddler that should 've quit
years ago and a female vocalist who was all boobs and no voice. J.B. got so
upset he broke three good pool cues! That was before he went out and
bought him a personalized cue stick that has a screw-on handle and even a
little leather case to carry "The Wizard" in. Marty is J.B.'s buddy and he
said it cost J.B. $289.00 on special. It came from a plant out of Maryville,
Tennessee. Well, no matter, in the long run J.B. had to accept runner-up
cause Walt keeps on a taking him. Walt, a young, good-looking fella don't
wanta lose his competition, so about the hardest thing he ever said was that
J.B.'s cue was real nice and on a good night J.B. could win three or four
games with that new stick.
The fifth new Sunday to Wednesday band in four months was about to
era n k up. This one just might make it. The crowd warmed up to 'em cause
they knew all the old favorites like "Honky Tonk Woman," "If I Had the
Wings of an Angel," and everything Hank Williams ever did. They did
good hymns, too. Nearly everybody joined in when they did "Closer Walk"
and "Amazing Grace." The women all sang. Some men, too. Those that
didn't just nodded approval and some said "real nice" or "I love that
song" in reverent tones.
Hard Liquor was the new band and they seemed to be here for awhile.
It didn't hurt that there were five of them and they played for $ 150.00 a
night and free drinks. By 1:00 a.m. they were a bit sloppy but so was the
crowd, and nobody seemed to notice.
Old South, the regular Thursday to Saturday band had been at
Charlie's for nearly five years now. Some thought they were the best — good
enough to be on "Nashville Sound" or "Grand ole Opry." They were good
but their endurance record had something to do with being thirty percent
owners with Charlie. Only a few insiders knew about that.
A stranger, dressed more like a casual businessman than a regular at
Charlie's, came in. Most of his kind just look around like they were looking
for a particular body and move on. They might figure a good ole boy would
start a fight with them or maybe we look a little too country for them. Once
in a while some guy's looking for his wife. A few come looking for a woman
to pick up. Anyhow, this guy came in, ordered a Bud and sat quietly at the
bar. He mighta had country roots cause he didn't just walk in and start talk-
ing and he didn't leave. Besides, except for the ones drinking from cups,
every beer can on the bar was a Bud. It seemed a little strange when the pool
table had such a nice Miller's light over it.
Over next to the wall sat a man a few knew as Pug. He'd been in
before, maybe five or six times. Rachel, a pencil-thin blond with hair way
down her back sat with him. He looked fifty- five or sixty at first, but it
might have been because of his teeth. The bottom teeth seemed to be in bad
shape and the upper's were almost surely "store bought."
To the surprise of a few, these two danced to every upbeat song played.
It was precision dancing like contesters out of the 1940's. Pug threw Rachel
between his legs, over each hip and into the air. She even did a flip through
his outstreched arms for a finale to the dance. Every move was precise, well-
timed and obviously well rehearsed.
The stranger ordered a second Bud and asked the waitress about the
couple. She said, "They don't come in much, but she ain't his daughter
--she's his woman" as if to convey a warning. When she served the Bud, she
tapped the guy next to the stranger and said, "Ben, tell this man about
"You don't want to mess with that man ~ he's strong as an ox."
"I'm sure he is, I've watched him throw the young lady all over the
floor." The stranger realized what else seemed peculiar about the couple.
Neither of them had cracked even the slightest smile. Rachel dutifully took
off her thick lensed glasses each time they went to the dance floor and left
them beside her blue, milk-shake -sized cup.
"They're good dancers /'offered the stranger. "They just don't look
like they're having any fun." Ben seemed not to hear that remark,
somewhat intent on his assignment from Betty Jean.
"One night about two months ago a young man came in here a little
drunk. He watched that young blond girl and clapped real big when thev
came off the floor. That caught her eye but only for a second. Pug don't
cotton to her noticing other men, or vicy versy for that matter."
4 'Are they married?" asked the stranger.
"Let's put it this way ~ she's his woman - married or not!"
"I get your point."
"So, anyway," said Ben, "this fella made the unfortunate mistake of
asking the lady to dance, and he said 'May I dance with your daughter?' to
Pug." Ben paused. "Hellfire, I haven't seen a man go so crazy in years! He
grabbed that fellow up and lifted him off the ground, carried him to the
wall and held him by the neck six inches off the floor against the wall. He
kicked a bit then went limp before two other guys pulled Pug off. The guy
came to and left without ever looking back."
"We seen him break another man's jaw in one punch, too," recalled
Betty Jean. "Some guy just went over and joined them at their table. We
don't even know what he said. He left on a stretcher."
"Damn, that man's kinda violent, isn't he?" suggested the newcomer.
"You might say that" kidded Betty Jean, and they all had a good
chuckle The stranger, however, felt a chill run down his spine.
"What would a guy do if he just came in and wanted to dance, that's
"Hell, that's easy," claimed Ben. "You'd ask ole Maggie over there.
She'll dance with anybody." Not exactly a compliment, thought the
stranger, but he did contemplate Maggie for awhile.
Not long after, Hard Liquor took a break. Maggie left her friend, Pen-
ny, talking with Larry. She strutted her 160 pounds up to the bar. Her dyed
blond hair detracted from her once pretty face. Heavy make-up told of her
last ditch effort at sexy youth. She could be thirty-five or fourty-five, but
her masquerading appearance made one believe forty- five going on
twenty-one. She laid a big kiss on Billy Joe, a young, good-looking fellow
with a mustache. He tolerated the kiss, sat back against the bar and said,
"That'll cost you a dollar."
"A dollar?" exclaimed Maggie. "Then let me owe you five... "and she
rather feverishly french kissed Billy Joe. He did seem to loose his cool and
blush a little as the regulars laughed.
Conversation rambled on. It was about guys doing time at Reidsville
State Prison, Cale Yarbrough and Richard Petty, divorced couples kidnap-
ping their own children, truckers doing dope, the "good ole days" when
men were men and Americans were patriotic. Few spoke of education, just
"schooling" and "making good money" (anything over $5.00 per hour).
The stranger, observing this subculture, wondered with a certain
sadness what chance did most of them have to live the good life; to avoid
sickness, the courts, the prisons, bankruptcy, or an early death? There was
something tragic, a certain fatality about it all, yet a camaraderie rarely seen
in the middle class. (Maybe for them they are living the good life.) As a
stranger he thought how unsafe the place seemed when he came in. Yet to
those who knew the rules, it was a haven from the bigger world. A place
where they were accepted and had a needed role to play. The outsider, who
negotiated the bigger world with reasonable success, realized that for
"Charlians" it was more like a hazardous maze. He remembered one of his
more down to earth professors explaining "socialization" or some other
such term, in college: "So much depends on how you were raised and what
your Mom and Daddy taught you was the truth. Some of that never goes
away -- even when you know better."
:■!■! ■!■[ ■!■ !■[■! ■[■1PTaif5TgHaTS1fgTB1fgT81fgTB1ffTBirBTB1^r«1 ■TBIfBTgra
Or am I hyperventilating?
Is too much oxygen boiling in my brain?
All the don'ts of all my life
Came rushing, screaming at me
They bounced off the back walls
Of the inner chambers of myself
And left their last consonants shattered.
They *ve come back softly saying,
"Do, Do, Do, Do. "
Dana Wise Stern
Standing At Graduation
Standing at Graduation
of hopes, dreams
goals set firmly
ready to face
overcome. . .
Time passed slowly
my heart breaks
pain turns to numbness-
death of a dream. . .
The Ideal Mate
There are as many different kinds of "ideal mates" as there are people
to define them; however, many people spend most of their adult lives sear-
ching for what they consider to be the "ideal mate." Unlike most, I have a
clear vision of the person I hope to find to share my life with. An "ideal
mate" to me is a person with a sense of humor and honesty, and one who is
strong and dominant -- so long as I'm in charge.
If a man does not have a sense of humor, I would not admire him at all.
I want someone who can share my happiness and understand my feelings
and ways. I don't want a man who is serious about everything. For in-
stance, if I wreck hi c car, instead of anger, he should show me laughter. If I
draw aii of his money out of the bank and spend it on food for a three-night
party, he should understand. If I burn his clothes by putting them in the
oven to dry, he should smile and say, "I know you are trying." If I make
him sandwiches every night of the week instead of a full meal so that I could
have time for my friends, he should say, "I'm proud of you for par-
ticipating in our neighborhood meetings."
Also, he should trust me as I trust him. After all, trust is one of the
most important parts of a relationship. It's a foundation. For example, if I
were to leave the house on a Monday morning and were to return home on
Sunday, my husband should understand if I say, "I went home to see my
mother because she is ill." Or if my husband came home one afternoon for
lunch and found me and another man in our bedroom, me in my nightgown
and the man in his underwear, my husband should understand if I say that
the man is a doctor and that he is checking me for breast cancer.
My "ideal mate" should be strong and dominant, because a man
doesn't fit into my life if he is weak or if he is liable to fail under pressure.
For example, if I told my husband that I wanted a divorce, I wouldn't want
him weeping and saying, "No, baby, please don't leave me. I need you."
Or if I fussed at the creep everyday and night for things such as taking his
shoes off in the bedroom, or if I said, "Eat your dinner in the bedroom,
because I don't feel like looking at you while I eat my supper!" he would
obey without hesitation. If I told him to walk the seven miles to work,
because I needed the car to take some of my friends to the Oglethorpe Mall,
the "ideal man" would say, "Yes dear," to the whole thing; however , a
weak man would say, "Are you crazy or just insane?"
I suppose I could say that my overall image of the "ideal mate" is a
person whom I can rule and control - a mate who will let me have my way.
If my "ideal mate" exhibits this behavior, I could definitely say that I have
found the one whom I am looking forward to spending eternity with.
Here's To You, Rachel!
J ana Belmoff
SETTING: The Mason living room. Upstage right is a door leading to the
kitchen. Upstage left is the front door. Facing the door is an opening
leading to the rest of the house. Downstage left is a small armchair which
faces the audience, and next to it, a couch placed at an angle. Between the
chair and couch is a small end table. In front of the couch is a coffee table.
Upstage center against the wall is a small table with a telephone on it.
Upstage right, below the kitchen door, is a small table with two chairs. The
time is the present, early evening. JIM MASON is sitting at the table. He
and RACHEL MASON, his wife, have just finished their evening meal.
JIM (calling.) Rachel! Where the hell's the coffee?
RACHEL (from inside the kitchen.) Coming, dear! (RACHEL MASON
enters. She is a nice looking woman in her mid-twenties. At present she is
wearing jeans and a very loose top which hides her figure. She wears very
little make-up and has a kerchief tied around her hair. She enters with a cof-
fee pot and crosses to JIM'S right side and pours the coffee.) There you are.
JIM (grumpily.) Well, it's about damned time! A man could die of thirst
waiting for you!
RACHEL (steps behind him and acts as though she is going to pour coffee
on his head. She stops, shakes her head, and sits down in her chair. After
she sits, she pours coffee in her own cup. She fixes her coffee and is about to
take a sip when JIM speaks.)
JIM. What's for dessert?
RACHEL. Chocolate cake.
JIM. Chocolate cake! Damn Rachel! You know I'm on a diet. (Eyeing her
critically.) You could stand to loose a few pounds yourself. But I guess since
it's already made we may as well eat it. (Impatiently.) Well? Are you going
to get it or not?
RACHEL (rises and goes toward the kitchen door. At door she turns and
looks at JIM who has picked up the newspaper from the table.) You're a
JIM (from behind newspaper.) What?
RACHEL. Nothing. (She goes into the kitchen.)
(The telephone rings. After a few rings, JIM finally looks up from his
paper and calls.)
JIM. Rachel! Are you going to get that?
RACHEL (calling from kitchen.) All right! (She enters quickly and crosses
to the telephone.) Hello?... (Glaring at JIM, who has resumed reading his
paper.) Yes, Carl, he's right here... No, we weren't busy. Hang on. Jim?
(He ignores her.) Jim, it's for you. (He still ignores her. She puts the phone
down, walks to him and takes the newspaper away.)
JIM. Hey! What's the big idea?
RACHEL. You're wanted on the phone.
JIM. Oh. Why didn't you say so? (He crosses to the phone. RACHEL
throws her hands up at the ceiling as if to say "why me?" She then exits to
the kitchen.) Hello? Hey Carl! How are you buddy?... Naw we weren't do-
ing anything. Rachel was just too slow to get to the phone, as usual... Yeah,
I know, Rachel's like that too. If you don't tell her what to do and when to
do it, she won't move. She's so damned helpless... What?... A few beers
later? Sure, when?... About eight-thirty? (Looking at watch.) That's a cou-
ple of hours from now. Rachel ought to be in bed by then... Yeah, I know
that's early, but she's gotta be at work at three... Yeah, this morning. So we
can go out and she won't bitch at me that I left her home alone... Okay,
Carl, see you then.
RACHEL (entering from the kitchen with plates and forks.) Dessert's
ready. (She places the plates and forks on the table.)
JIM. Okay. (He walks to the table and sits. RACHEL exits into the kitchen.
JIM resumes reading his paper again. RACHEL re-enters with a decorated
cake with a few candles lit on it. Smilingly she places it on the table and
looks expectantly at JIM.)
RACHEL. Well? How do you like it? (There is no response from JIM.
RACHEL sighs and blows out the candles.) Happy birthday Rachel. (She
sits and cuts the cake. Lifting JIM'S newspaper, she slides his piece
underneath. JIM finally puts down his paper.)
JIM. Oh. Thanks. (He starts eating.)
RACHEL. Don't mention it. (Pause.) What did Carl want?
JIM. He just wanted me to go for a few beers later.
JIM. Don't worry! He's coming by at eight-thirty. You'll be in bed by then.
RACHEL. Why should I be in bed that early?
JIM. Because you gotta be at work at three. Remember?
RACHEL. No, Jim, I don't. Remember I told you they gave me the night
JIM. No, you didn't. Why did they let you off? Damn it, Rachel, we need
RACHEL. They gave me the night off because it's my... (catching herself)
night to be off.
JIM (petulantly.) Well, I'm not going to call Carl and cancel now.
RACHEL (wryly.) No, of course not.
JIM (finishing his cake and rising.) Well, I'm going to relax till he gets here.
If you don't mind.
RACHEL. Why should / mind?
JIM. Good. Then if you wouldn't mind leaving me in peace, I'll resume
reading my paper. (He crosses to the sofa and lies down. He opens the
newspaper and reads, hiding his face.)
RACHEL (stares at him, then rises resignedly and begins clearing the table.
On her last trip out of the kitchen, she carries is a bottle of champagne and a
glass. She pops the cork, pours, and carries her glass to the small armchair.
She sits, raises her glass in the air and glances at her husband.) Here's to you
Rachel! May this be the last birthday you spend alone. (She drinks.)
Mmmm, good! I think I'll have another. (She rises, walks to the table, and
pours another glass of champagne. She crosses back to the chair.) Jim,
dear? (No response.) How would you like to see a striptease? (She snatches
off her kerchief and flings it across the room.) No good, huh? Oh well. (She
sits in the chair and makes another toast.) To the man I married! May he rot
in hell. (She starts to drink. When JIM speaks, she splutters and coughs.)
JIM (from behind the paper.) What was that?
RACHEL (thinking quickly.) I said, Jamie got the shell.
RACHEL. Yeah. Jamie at work. She got the conch shell lamp she wanted
for her birthday.
RACHEL (drinks down her champagne and rises for more.) It's funny how
people can hear what they want to hear and turn off what they don't. (No
response from JIM.) Jim? (Pause.) See what I mean? (She shrugs, crosses to
the table and pours more champagne.) You know what I'm going to do, Jim
dear! I'm going to drink this whole bottle of champagne. And when it's
gone, I'm going to call my good friend and lover, Paul. Do you know what
I'm going to call him? Darling! (She laughs at her own joke and drinks
down a third glass of champagne. She is by this time becoming slightly tip-
sy.) My darling husband. Is your paper interesting? (She taps her head.)
There's more up here than you realize. You know that? (She sits in a chair
at the table.)
JIM (putting down the newspaper on the coffee table.) Nothing but bad
news as usual. (He sits up and looks at his watch.) Well, another hour to kill
till Carl gets here. (He holds out an arm to RACHEL.) Come here. We may
as well kill it having fun, right?
RACHEL (looking at him disgustedly.) I've got something better to do.
JIM. Oh, yeah? What?
RACHEL. I'm going to get drunk. (She rises from the table taking the glass
and bottle with her and through the opening opposite the front door.)
JIM. Damn! Can't even get a little in my own house. Dumb broad! Who
needs you anyway. Just sore 'cause I'm going out. Well, Carl and me will
find some more congenial company. Where's my book I was reading this
morning? (Calling.) Hey Rachel! Where's my damn book?
RACHEL (calling from offstage.) It's on the coffee table!
JIM (looking on the coffee table.) No it's not!
RACHEL (enters, weaving slightly, crosses to the coffee table, lifts the
newspaper, pulls out his book and hands it to JIM with two fingers. She
then exits again through the same opening.)
JIM. Women! Think they know everything! (He lies back down on the
couch and resumes reading. After a few seconds, RACHEL re-enters with
the champagne bottle and a glass. She crosses to the kitchen door and exits.
The phone rings. RACHEL re-enters and crosses to the phone, picking it
RACHEL. Hello? Paul... (She looks at JIM and sees that he is reading.)
Sure, I can talk... They what?!... My stocks tripled and you sold them?... A
million dollars! I don't believe it!... Yes, it certainly is the best present I've
gotten today! (She glances at JIM, who is still reading.)... You want to
what? Paul! You've got to be kidding!... You actually want me to leave Jim
and go with you to Jamaica tonight?... Yes, this is what we've been planning
for with our investments, but... Hold on a minute. (She covers the
mouthpiece with her hand and speaks to JIM.) Jim? Paul wants me to run
off to Jamaica with him. (No response.) Jim, I'm a millionaire!
JIM (putting down his book.) What did you say?
RACHEL. Nothing. Go back to your book. (He does so. RACHEL speaks
into the phone.) Paul?... Yes, darling! Let's go! I'll pack a few things and be
ready in fifteen minutes!... I love you too! 'Bye. (She hangs up and exits into
the left opening.)
JIM (laying down his book on the table and stretching.) I think I'll get a
head start on Carl and have a beer now. (He exits into the kitchen. The
phone rings. After several rings JIM enters with a can of beer, muttering.
He crosses to the phone and answers it.) Hello?... Oh, hey Carl!... You want
to do what?... Go bowling? Sure, why not. See you in ten. (He hangs up,
crosses to the couch, opens his beer, and sits back on the couch with book
RACHEL (enters from up left entrance. She has changed into a nice pair of
slacks and a clingy sweater. Her hair and make-up have been fixed and she
looks considerably more attractive. She carries a suitcase and a purse which
she lays down by the front door.) Well, rich lady! You got your birthday
wish. Jim, dear, I hope you and your books will be very happy. (The
doorbell rings. She answers it. A handsome man is standing in the doorway.
He is smiling and is obviously very much in love with RACHEL.)
PAUL. Hi, beautiful! Happy birthday! (He gathers her in his arms and
kisses her just inside the doorway.) Ready?
RACHEL (smiling.) Are you kidding? Let's go! (PAUL picks up her suit-
case and they leave. RACHEL closes the door behind her. A few moments
pass and the doorbell rings again. JIM, who is absorbed in his book, ignores
it. The doorbell rings a few more times, insistently. JIM finnaly looks up.)
JIM. Rachel? You gonna get that? (No response.) Damn! (He crosses to the
door and opens it. A man of about JIM'S age steps in.)
CARL. Damn, Jim! Don't you ever answer your door?
JIM. I thought Rachel was going to get it, but she must have gone to bed
early after all. Come on, let's go. (They exit as the curtain falls.)
If I Were Deprived
If I were deprived
forming no roots
an empty garden
no beautiful flowers
If there were no
joy, no peace
now you have
my pain erased,
my fears calmed
an ocean breeze
into my mannequin-like
A Stop In The Desert
James Land Jones
When I got to Indigo I flipped the coin again. Three series of the best
two out of three. That made nine times altogether and I think the reason I
did it so many times is that when I first started flipping the coin 1 thought
there was more chance of its coming out what I wanted. When I left
Pomona College that morning I said to myself, / mil flip the coin again at
Indigo, for Indigo is this side of the desert and I can still go back. That was
the whole point: I could still go back. Pomona was always heads and the
State University at home was always tails, since P comes before S. I would
shake the coin in my hand, feeling it turn over and over (I always made sure
it turned over) and then I would carefully balance it on my thumb for a flip.
It had to take a good spin and I had to catch it squarely, or I wouldn't count
it and would flip again. But I had to keep track of it in my head, and by the
time I finished the last set it seemed like every time I would forget what the
score was. I never meant to forget but somehow I always did.
It was awfully hot sitting in that car loaded with clothes and books and
junk, by the side of the road, at the edge of the desert. I suddenly
remembered that it was noon and I hadn't eaten anything all day. So I cruis-
ed down that neat four-lane highway looking for a shaded drive-in or a nice
modest cafe. There was a big green job I almost stopped at, but it looked
pretty swanky what with that little sidewalk awning and no windows and
all. I drove on but Indigo ran out and the big signs pointed the sharp left
turn over the railroad tracks, up that long slope to the desert and the east.
Well, I turned around and drove down the other side, back into town,
but there wasn't much luck on that side either, so I turned around again. A
block before the big green job I saw a small root beer stand of faded
washed-out blue. It wasn't much but there were some big wooden tables and
benches along side beneath a canvas awning.
I parked the car and walked up to the front where a dumpy Indian girl
slid the little glass window back and took my order. I wasn't hungry but I
ordered the chili dog and the seventy-five cent root beer for I sure was thirs-
ty. My eyes followed the Indian girl as she started to work, but I wasn't real-
ly watching her, and besides the sun kept hitting the glass so that she wasn't
much of anything but a brittle glare superimposed on the reflected filling
station across the highway. I thought about that for awhile, how she was
nothing but a superimposition on the filling station, but it didn't seem to
make much sense. So I just stood there squinting into the glass, thinking
It was hot but as long as I just stood there I didn't notice the heat. In-
digo is twenty-two feet below sea level; and that seemed funny too, because
Indigo is in the valley, with some green, and the eastern desert is up, way up
on the top of that long hill that is eroded in violent gullies hidden in the
shimmering haze. I remembered that hill from coming west, three days ago.
It was night when I reached the drop-off and way far away below I could see
all the lights of Indigo stretching down the valley as I popped up and down
over that damned eroded slope. I was pushing it near eighty and it was like
riding a roller coaster, up and down so hard I could feel it in my stomach.
In daylight you can't see all those little dips, just that long slope like some
low mountain hunching up to the desert on top of it.
Anyway, the girl thrust a sack and a paper cup at me, and tucking the
big white envelope with all the stuff about Pomona College in it under my
arm, I walked over to those tables and benches. I wanted to get around the
side of the building where the girl couldn't see me, but some man and
woman were sitting there, so I had to sit right up by that plate glass front
with the little window in it. I reached into the sack and pulled out a long
steaming bundle wrapped in moist, sticky tissue paper. That was the biggest
chili dog I had ever seen, but it wasn't very good. The meat was rotten and
the chili was dry and crumbly, without much taste. I ate about half of it just
to put something on my stomach then wadded the rest of it up into a ball in
that moist tissue paper and thrust it back into the sack, and wadded that up,
too. But the root beer was real good and there was lots of ice. I sipped
awhile on the big straw then wadded it up too and threw it across the table
out from beneath the canvas awning into the glare and sun. Then I pulled
out the stuff about Pomona from that big white envelope.
The catalogue was pretty and I liked that. It was a pale blue, cool and
friendly, crossed with the white letters of "Pomona College Bulletin." At
first I just flipped through the pictures, noticing that they were not the same
as in that catalogue I looked at in the library back home. (I had enrolled
late, the last week in August, and I guess they hadn't seen it when I asked
them to send me a catalogue at the bottom of my letter.) These pictures were
better than the others in the old catalogue; I mean they showed more of the
college, and after all that's what one wants to see in pictures. There was one
in particular that I really liked, a shot across the long paved courtyard bet-
ween the men's dorms to Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriel range. That shows
a lot, I think, what living conditions at Pomona are like, for those dorms
are bright new buildings and the view to the mountains is supurb.
The flys began buzzing and working around that paper sack with the
chili dog in it, so I got up and put it in one of those metal trash cans with the
I had gotten to Pomona College late Thursday night, but I was not
really tired. The road west just goes and goes across the desert and then
after you make the long drop at Indigo and the sharp turn across the tracks,
it's just more of the same till it spreads out into four lanes. That bothered
me at first, a double row of headlights coming at me at top speed over those
gentle hills and curves, and a double row of headlights on my side in the
rear-view mirror. But eventually your eyes get kind of blurry and you get us-
ed to it.
The night was just as clear as a bottle of midnight blue ink held up to
the light and scattered with stars like chipped ice. There was that deep night
sky and then, where the mountain met it, just a jagged edge of blackness.
My headlights had just picked up the small sign reading "Palm Springs,"
with an arrow pointing over to a hollow cavern of blackness where the
mountain was, when the sand storm started. At first I thought it must be
raining or hailing or something, but the air vents began to pick it up, flaying
it against my legs. Then I knew it was sand all right. I shut the vents and
watched great clouds of that sand swirl up across the highway and sway the
car ever so much. Then I would drive out of it so quickly that I was suprised
to see the clear air before me.
That went on until I reached Banning, where I stopped for gas. All
afternoon I had thought about the oil, coming west across the desert and
seeing now and then the rusted skeleton of some old car at the edge of the
highway, up in the sand. There was no telling how long some of them had
been there, and I wondered about the people that had been in them. I
wondered what they did when they left them, where they went in the desert
like that, and who had come out like buzzards and stripped them of tires
and motors and everything but that steel frame. I counted twelve of those
sludged hulks. They were like the pile of bones one would see at the water
hole if he were coming out in pioneer days, only this was the twentieth cen-
tury and they were not bones but cars, and I knew where I was going.
From Banning I just sat back and watched the big signs of that neat
four-lane highway mark the towns, watching for Pomona. I thought I
would have to go through Pomona to get to Claremont, where the College
is. But just outside of Pomona a couple of miles there was a little sign that
said Claremont, so I didn't have to go all the way to Pomona. I slid off the
freeway real easy like and onto a wide street with tall street lights; they made
it look like a baseball park when only half the floodlights are on. That street
took me through some grubby pre-fab houses with sand-lot backyards and
scraggly palms, up to some railroad tracks and a stop sign. There was
nothing along my side of the tracks. But a row of dark buildings with oca-
sional neon tubing ran along the other side, indicating stores, and I knew it-
most be Claremont. I stopped and in that thin light caught sight of a sign
that pointed the way to Pomona College.
Well, I don't know what I was thinking of, but across from the campus
I stopped at the Claremont Inn and asked about a room. There were a cou-
ple of girls standing at the desk in bermuda shorts, beside some luggage,
and when I asked that young guy for a room he just kind of laughed. I
should have known better, what with orientation week starting the next day;
that place had probably been booked up with college kids for weeks. But I
just hadn't thought because I didn't want to think at all, just watch the
country and drive.
There wasn't anywhere else to stay in Claremont, a little town like that.
This didn't scare me exactly (I could always sleep in the car) but it made me
feel uneasy, like you feel when you have been out walking late at night and
suddenly realize how far you've come from home. When you were out
walking you didn't realize it, but when you stop or the road forks you
wonder how you came that far without realizing it.
So I got back into the car and drove out to the freeway again. Only I
didn't go back on it but drove straight ahead, right into Ontario. Yeah, On-
tario, California. And that made me feel the same way as you do on that
walk at night. Ontario seemed to go every-which-way and I just chose a big
street and guessed. There were some motels on it all right, only they were all
filled up, and there was nothing to do but keep driving on that street, look-
ing at the little "Vacancy" signs that all had the "No" lit up in front of
them. I couldn't figure it out, all those places filled up, and I kept thinking
they have to be college students and their families.
Soon there wasn't much left of Ontario but dark hulking industrial
buildings along that street and an occasional neon sign. I had just about
passed it when I caught sight of a dull red glow that spelled "Vacancy,"
back off the street beneath some trees. Back of the main house, so dark in
those trees that you could hardly see them, were the cottages. They looked
like they were hunched back in some foul alley. There wasn't a light in the
whole place save for that dull red glow from the sign and a wretched yellow
blur from the main house, behind dirty faded shades.
I walked up to the stoop and stood before the open door. The room
was dark save for the florescent sterile flicker of the television set.
Something moved up from a prone position on an overstuffed sofa with
faded slip covers and came toward the door. It was a short fleshy woman
with flat yellowish-grey hair done up on her head. In that oversized
bathrobe trailing around her feet, she looked like some article that had just
been taken from the wash and wrapped up in a towel.
She stood there and looked at me for a moment, like she wondered
what I wanted, and I was conscious of somebody fiddling around in a car
trunk in the darkness behind me. Then she said: "You want a room?"
Yeah, I wanted a room. I wondered what the fiddling was in the
darkness behind me.
I stepped inside and watched that sterile thin white flickering on the
walls while she rummaged around for a register. She found it, under a pile
of papers and magazines, by the sofa. She carried it to a table near the
television set and I wondered how all this barren fadedness and sand-
scoured ugliness could be so close to Los Angeles, and I thought it all
belonged back on the desert with the sludged hulks but it was here and it
didn't make much sense. Was this that little hole that slipped to hell just at
the gates of paradise, near the angels, and I was sure that I had remembered
that from John Bunyon or was it from Hawthorn's "Celestial Railroad"
which was also from John Bunyon. And I wondered what John Bunyon has
to do with California and railroads with my car.
She stood aside, shifting the big robe up about her shoulders, and I
moved up to sign in. There wasn't any light at all, only that television, but I
did the best I could, filling a line in that register which wasn't anything but a
big cheap ledger book she had picked up at the five-and-ten.
So then she tells me that she won't accept traveller's checks. "No, I
can't do it. I don't ever go anywhere, so there is nowhere for me to cash it,"
she said, as if amazed at my assuming she would ever be going anywhere on
earth at all. And I looked at her real funny, trying to imagine her sitting all
her life in that dark room with the flickering whiteness, wrapped in that big
robe like a wet wash, just sitting there all her life. And I wanted to pick her
up and shake her, to shout at her or something, anything to feel like she was
alive and I was alive. But I didn't know, didn't know anymore, and nothing
came out and it was all like a dream where things take place in a vacuum
and there aren't any words because you can't speak and it's all just pictures.
And I wondered if it was a dream, for my body felt suddenly like it was in
the car moving, but my mind was in a dream where this woman and I were
in an air-tight glass enclosure performing on strings like mannequins, and I
wasn't sure anymore at all.
I turned around and walked out. She shuffled to the door and I think
she was saying something about my cashing the traveller's check at the
supermarket across the way, and I knew she wanted that four dollars. But I
wasn't listening. I just wasn't listening anymore. I just stood there in that
dark alley by my car, not thinking of anything. There was a man fiddling in
the trunk of the car next to mine and I wondered what he was doing there,
for I had forgotten that there was anyone in the world but that bundle of
wet wash and myself. When I was sure he was really there, I saw that he
wasn't actually fiddling but watching me out of the corner of his eye. That
was very odd, that he would be watching me. Then it didn't make any dif-
ference any more and I drove off. Back in the car again, moving.
Down the road a way there was another tourist court, an old one, but
nicely lighted, with a row of trees running down between the courts. I stop-
ped and walked into the little office, not much bigger than a closet and with
linoleum on the floor. A big ceiling light lit up every corner. Presently a
woman came out from the back of the house and I signed in, on one of
those little cards like you use in a first-rate motel. Her husband came out
and we talked awhile, all that talk that doesn't mean anything and is not
much better than the dream, except you can hear the sound of your own
voice. I must have said something about college, for she said she'd heard of
Pomona. I chewed on that awhile; Pomona couldn't have been over ten
"Why don't you go to Chico?" she asked banteringly, indicating some
local loyalty. I tried to sound interested and polite and asked gently
where that was. Well, it was around there close. And then she asked why I
can come clear out to California to go to college, and I don't remember
what I told her because it was the same standard answer I had been giving to
that question for the past two weeks, and after you've been giving an
answer for two weeks you don't pay attention to what you're saying any-
I guess I gave that answer once too often, because when I got over to
my court and plopped down on that bed, her question hit me~I mean I was
suddenly aware that she had asked me that question-and I couldn't think of
what I had told her and I didn't know what the answer was. I just lay there
on that bed with the pink spread with the ridges on it and looked at the slits
of light thrown on the wall by the half-open Venetian blind on the back win-
dow. Those neat slits of light chopping up the darkness on the plastered
wall--thev were the pat answer I had been giving to The Question. Each strip
a well ordered reason for transferring to Pomona College, plastered against
the darkness we never really know about. Mallory said he climbed moun-
tains because they were there. Well, 1 was here. And if you wanted to know
more, you could inspect those neat little slit-reasons which I had plastered
against the darkness of my own soul. The reasons were: 1 liked the climate,
Pomona College was fifteenth on a list of best colleges in the country, and I
was ambitious. All plastered against the darkness. That was the answer I
had been giving.
I got up and eased into the shower where, after a reasonable length of
time, the water was warm and relaxing. Then I lit a cigarette and slipped
plum naked between the cool sheets. I watched the smoke curl up and
dissipate itself into the semi-darkness, while all the while those slits of light
were on the wall. Then somebody turned out the light out back, for the slits
were gone and there was nothing but sudden darkness.
I didn't move for a long time. I just lay there and kept flipping my
cigarette against the edge of a glass ash tray propped on my stomach, wat-
ching its arcs of light. When my eyes got used to the dark, I saw that there
wasn't much to be seen, that I couldn't see anything in the room very clear-
ly, and then I knew that it was up to me to keep the old answer from being
cu/allnii/oH in Hartnpcc tr\n
swallowed in darkness, too.
The next morning I wasn't sure whether that answer was really there or
whether it was just an "after image," as the psychologists call it. But I made
like it was there and screwed my courage to the sticking place (which in this
case happened to be the driver's seat of my car) and went over to Pomona.
The pictures hadn't lied. It was beautiful. I kept saying that as I drove
around the campus, and I asked myself why and what is beauty. I always
ask myself questions like that, ever since the professor back at Leighton
asked me "What is poetry?" the first day of sophmore English, and I found
out later he was using what they call the Socratic Method. Well, I used it for
a long time, that Socratic Method, and I really thought I had something.
Until I took a course in Semantics and ran across Bertrand Russell's saying
that at the end of the Socratic Method you have made only a linguistic
discovery, not a discovery in ethics. After that it wasn't much good any
more. And neither was Leighton for that matter.
But that morning I drove around the campus of Pomona College and
decided it was beautiful, and that Beauty was my own projection of it. I
picked that up in Psychology, that idea about projection, and it made a neat
solution to the linguistic problem, even if my philosophy prof did call it
I stopped at the Claremont Inn again, going in for breakfast. I sat by
the windows in the dining room where I could look out at the campus across
the street, hidden by the big trees. Everything was real nice; they had
tablecloths on the tables and the girl came by with a little tray in which you
put the money to pay the bill. It made you feel like the place had order, all
that decor holding one up from eating on the floor.
After breakfast I bought some cigarettes and walked through the splen-
did trees of the campus, hunting for the main office building, where I guess-
ed I should register. In a large recess in the main hall, about half a dozen
students were waiting before a poster board propped up on a wooden stand.
A low white office fence separated the recess from the main hall, and a
secretary was sitting by the gate. She told me that the Dean had been expec-
ting me, which made me feel real good. I went into his office off the hall
and talked with him, and then he took me out before the poster board. Sure
enough, there was that picture of myself that I had sent them, tacked above
my name, with a lot of other pictures and names. One of the boys put a little
check before my name and introduced himself as my monitor. He was
about my height, in slacks and a polo shirt. Together we went back to my
car and started down his list of available rooms.
The first place was down on the corner by the railroad tracks. Jim-that
was the boy's name-said the guy here was pretty odd, and after we had
rung the bell several times I was ready to go on to the next place. But finally
the man came to the door, a tall thin guy wearing nothing but some flimsy
leopardskin shorts, a pair of sandals, and this moustache. He looked at me
real funny and we went in, through his house, to a back room that was for
rent. There wasn't much there at all. The man said he hadn't fixed it up
because he didn't know for sure whether he was going to rent it or not. But
the bad thing was having to traipse through the rest of the house to get to
the room. It seemed too close to the rest of the house, and if a room is really
yours it isn't close to the house.
So we went on to the rest of the places on the list. Some of them were
just as bad; some had already been rented; at some the people weren't home
so we couldn't see their rooms. The last place on the list was on a dead-end
street about half a block from campus. It was a two-story frame place, grey
and weather beaten, and it seemed like the only thing holding it up were the
trees that closed in against it. Inside the whole house had a damp, slightly
musty odor about it. The landlady was a tall old woman with a broken leg
all done up in a white plaster cast. She told us to go upstairs, where she had
several rooms. The smell was worst on the stairs.
The front room was nice. Three big windows looked out to the street,
there was a wash basin, a rug on the floor, and a bookcase. Down the dim
hall the windows of the back room looked out from under the eves like giant
bug eyes, across the narrow grubby back yard fenced in like a little cell
among the cells of other narrow grubby back yards. The torn brown shades
looked like lacerated eyelids incapable of closing off the scene beyond them.
There was no rug, there was no bookcase, and the desk was just a rickety
wooden table. The roof under the eves sloped down in all sorts of crazy
angles as if it were closing in on you. In a sort of alcove there was an old
iron bed with a thin flabby cotton mattress. Next to the room was the bath.
It was dirty and pretty run-down. An antiquated hot water tank grumbled
in the corner and the grimy wood floor was covered with a brittle piece of
green linoleum with big gaping holes. Before the bathroom door was a wash
bowl and a mirror. The rim of the bowl was covered with slimy puddles of
soap slop, the inside flecked with black hairs. The mirror was all filmed
The front room wasn't bad, though, and I was about to tell the woman
I would take it when she said that it was already rented, that one of the new
students had already been by. She wanted to know if I wanted the other
room and I looked at Jim and he said that we would keep it in mind. We
tried the other places, where the people hadn't been home before, but no
luck. So I went back and took the end room.
I could have started unpacking the car then, but I didn't. For some
reason I didn't. I just went back to the office with Jim. When he got tied up
with someone else I walked over the campus. The freshman girls were arriv-
ing in masses down at the girls' dorm and the boys were all down there
whooping and hollering and helping them with their luggage. I walked back
up to the other end of the campus to the Student Union. In the courtyard
some of the upperclassmen were working industriously on big posters, but I
didn't notice what they were for. I walked inside and ordered a hamburger
and a coke and stepped out onto the front patio and sat down. I sat there
and watched Mt. Baldy rising serene in the clear distance.
At four it was time for the meeting of all the transfer students. We met
in the lounge of some ballroom. The upperclassmen talked to us and gave us
the big envelopes with all the information about the college in them, then we
split up into little groups. The boy in charge of my group was an athlete of
sorts and so everyone started talking about athletics and the boy took infor-
mation on what sports we could play and I kept saying to myself "Isn't
there someplace in this damned country where they think of something
besides athletics?" Then the meeting was over and there was nothing to do
but go back to my room and get ready for the banquet that night.
When I got back to the house, I found that the other boy had moved in-
to the front room. He was a tall gangly chap with a face like a spaniel encas-
ed in black horn-rimmed glasses. He was one of those people who would
never set the world on fire, but was good and kind and kept it going year
after year. He was in engineering.
We talked for quite awhile, while he puttered around the room,
straightening out odds and ends. He didn't have any books at all, and so I
tried to talk him out of the book case. But he wouldn't give it up and that
angered me, when he knew he didn't need it. He had transfeiredfrom some
small college on the way out to Indio. His high school teachers had told him
of Pomona's being a good college and I thought that damned quaint and he
said he thought the students here were very friendly, with which I agreed.
He asked about me and why I had come all the way to California to school
and I tried to tell him but nothing came out very well because it was all
tangled up with the whole of whatever I was and I just wasn't sure anymore,
and I clenched my teeth and said to myself I know you think I'm crazy but
you don't understand, you can't understand because your high school
teachers told you and you will go back to wherever you came from and live
happily ever after, and if I really try to explain you will only say "I don't
know what you're talking about" and that will sound like my high school
teachers and I will cry "You purblind fool, don't you even care why you
keep the world going round and round, what it is that you should care or I
should care or that she should simply be at all?"
So I really didn't say much. I just told him what he wanted to hear,
then he said, "Well, I've got to get ready," and I said "Yes" and went
down to the car and brought up a suitcase to that room under the eves.
Together we walked over to the dining hall between the bright new
dorms, across the vast courtyard with the view of Mt. Baldy. The late after-
noon haze made everything seem far away and soft, like when driving. All
the freshmen were standing before the closed doors of the dining hall with
their little beanies on and we transfer students chuckled to ourselves. I stood
off with one whose parents had sent him to Pomona from a junior college in
Los Angeles. He dressed in a tight-fitting sport coat, cut to accentuate his
trim waist and broad shoulders, and he was tanned like a bronzed god and
talked in slurred, sensual tones, standing relaxed as if he mastered all the
world. I asked him about L.A. and he told me about beach parties and nude
moonlight swims, about Ciro's and the Mocambo, and Sunset Boulevard at
night in the open convertible, looking far out across the valley of lights to
the sea, and motorcycle picnics into the foothills. "Damn, we know how to
live!" he said, and I think for a moment I envied him.
Dinner was pleasant. We all sat according to our major and I was the
only male English major except for some silly little fop who kept fretting
because he couldn't have lemon in his tea. I was sitting across from the
chairman of the department and even he thought it was rather funny. The
professor started a conversation with the girl next to him and by the time I
could get in on it they were talking about Oxford, from which the girl had
just returned. Her father had lectured there a semester, and she had attend-
ed a few lectures. I played dumb and asked all about Oxford; it seems the
professor had been there recently, too, and I guess I was trying to impress
him, for I remember I said that my best friend had just won a Rhodes
Scholarship from the school he had transferred to in California.
After dinner the president of the college made a brilliant talk about
what a college education should be and what Pomona was trying to do for
us, and so for awhile I thought I had really found it. But when he was
through, the professor told us about the program of the requirements and I
found that about half of my work wouldn't transfer and I thought "It's the
same old rat race over again."
Then we went into the Courtyard for a pep rally. The Oxford girl and I
got together. She was a sophisticated thing, having been back east to school
and Oxford and all, and the very independent type. She thought that pep
rallies were pretty sophomoric and so I played right along and we kept pop-
ping bright Oscar Wildish barbs back and forth. But as soon as I stood
under the star-scattered sky fresh as clean sheets, on the steps of the vast
courtyard with Mt. Baldy at my back and the chill night air in my face, and
we sang the Alma Mater, and I kept asking myself why I wanted to cry, and
I wanted to tell the silly young freshman with the crazy beanies and bright
upturned faces that they didn't know how lucky they were.
I walked the girl back to the dorms at the other end of the campus and
I felt dirty inside playing her game and I wanted to slap her. And then I
wondered who she was that the world was this to her, and who I was that
the world was this to me. She drove me back to my rooming house, but I
didn't go in at first. I just stood there on the fraction of front lawn between
the trees and looked out into the night and watched the bright patches of
light from upstairs windows filter through the trees and fall like autumn
leaves upon the lawn.
Then I tossed my cigarette into the blackness beyond the curbing and
watched it explode momentarily into pinpoints of scattered fire as it struck
the concrete. Then I thought of my car and the local law that you can't
leave your car out in the street overnight and I said "Oh what the Hell, dear
God oh what the Hell," and stumbled up the black narrow stairs.
The othe^boy was still up. His door was open so I walked in and sat
down on the table and said nothing. He said nothing either, and walked
back and forth rearranging his stuff again. Finally he said, "Well, what do
you think?" and I tried to tell him what I thought and though I did no bet-
ter with the words he seemed to understand a little this time and sat down on
the bed, pulling out a cigarette and fingering it awkwardly.
"I don't smoke much," he explained, and then I liked him very much
and said "I think I'm leaving."
He asked me why and he really wanted to know and I guess to help if he
could, and I told him something about the credits that wouldn't transfer
and about the room and I don't really remember what else. I told him that if
I left I would have to leave right away so that I could get home and get into
the State University before it started. And I guess he liked me, too, for he
kept saying, "Give it a chance. Don't leave yet. Wait several days and give it
But then it was gone and he got ready for bed and I groped my way
down the bleak hall to that room where the ceilings closed in at crazy angles.
I took off my shoes, wrapped the counterpane about me, and lay down on
the sagging mattress.
When I woke up the next morning I lay for a long time with the
counterpane over my head and listened to the little noises beyond the door.
Someone came out of the room next to mine and entered the bath, shuffling
about and flushing the toilet several times. As long as the counterpane was
over my head, I did not have to believe that I was in the room at all. As long
as I could just lay there I knew everything would be all right. And so I must
have lain there for over an hour. But I had to get up to use the toilet and
there wasn't any use pretending any more. I came back and sat on the edge
of the bed. Then I got up and put my coat and tie back into the suitcase,
folding the coat very carefully. Everything was all packed up so I went back
and sat on the edge of the bed and waited. I waited for a long time. Finally I
put my shoes on. I put two dollars on the dresser for the woman. I would
drive out to Indio. I would flip the coin again at Indio, for Indio was this
side of the desert and I could still come back. I would decide at Indio.
But at Indio I forgot the score and there was nothing to do but drive
on. Across the desert, into the mountains, maybe. It really didn't make any
difference. No difference at all, not when I was driving.
Once more, dear Venus, I your aid invoke:
Uplift in spouting couplets my pen 's stroke.
Long springs ago brave Klunkwit led his swarm
Of panting heroes to the woman's dorm.
A generation later great Timorus
With blotting bullhorns led his cursing chorus
To loot and smash in peaceful protestations
Against the war, and housing regulations.
Now spring erects a new enthusiasm,
And students flock to view new faddist spasm.
From Georgia to Alaskan tundras bleak
The student herds unite to strip and streak.
Clad only in the emperor's regalia,
In hordes along the campus paths they flash,
Pause and cavort where lighted fountains splash,
Then flee the new arriving legal arm
To waiting cars that whisk them out of harm.
In City Hall the figleaf furies pop;
"Pursuit of filmed and printed smut must stop;
Mere artifacts will await our ogling proof,
But here's pornography upon the hoof.
If dirt in book and picture makes us squirm,
How much more potent is the living worm?
Be quick before police arrest the slime,
We'll pass a law to make a streak a crime.
These floating naked shows will get obscener
If we can punish only misdemeanor.
Mug shots and witnessed lineups we'll arrange
Before we let them cover up and change,
For culprits masked no witnesses can tell
Unless identified au naturale.
All other crime prevention is suspended
Until this moral turpitude is ended. "
Thus vernal campus rites usurp front pages,
And prurient prudes rejoice in moral rages;
Professors teach attenuated classes
While sirens shriek pursuing naked passes
Of streaking bucks and undulating lasses.
Hugh Pendexter III
The large woman
in the blue bathing suit
with white polka dots
and a skirt
is watching me ~
she doesn *t realize
I am watching her
through the polarized
of my sunglasses.
I guess she doesn 't like
or girls who can wear them.
She should --
Green is her color.
Dana Wise Stern
Of Time And Lizards - And Sex
Jane Ann Patchak
From the vantage of my patio I watch the many-ringed circus of subur-
ban wildlife, the aerialists and high wire performers, the balancing acts, and
the clowns. There was even a magic act one day when a Luna moth
metamorphosed and hung itself to dry on the rubber plant, its luminous
four-inch-swallow-tailed wings atremble in the slight breeze. My ringside
seat affords me much pleasure and a bit of insight as birds and squirrels,
butterflies and cats, and lizards, stalk and quarrel, court, and rear their off-
It is the chameleons, though, that command much of my attention.
Actually, they aren't chameleons at all, but anoles. Chameleons are Old
World creatures and much larger than the small green lizards that dwell in
the yard and patio. Presently there are six which reside on the patio. They
are graduated in size and one has lost part of a tail. I call her Sugar. The
very large one is El Groso and the tiny one I call La Petite. Today I
discovered that this is a misnomer, for La Petite is a very young male and in
a gesture of insouciant bravado, he did a couple of quick push-ups and wav-
ed a miniscule pink flag at El Groso before scurrying into a crevice in the
bricks too small for fatty to follow. In time these two will likely have a con-
frontation that will force one to retire from the patio, leaving the other as
top dog, to use an inappropriate metaphor, with a harem of nubile females.
The other chameleoms lack sufficient distinguishing characteristics as
yet for naming. They mostly hang out on the periphery, so to speak, in
areas where I have constructed chameleon- environment . There's a small
rock collection which serves as a miniature mountain range where they can
bask in filtered sunlight. At one end of the patio I hung a couple of bran-
ches with interesting shapes. These provide an escape when life on the
screens palls. This morning one was apparently in deep meditation on a
branch where he had assumed a Yogo asana, the Pose of the Snake. Then
there are the hanging plants where they can lurk and await an unwary bug
or a pubescent female.
I have logged several hundred hours chameleon- watching, and have
observed hunting, stalking, defense, courtship, and copulatory behaviors.
Once I saw a fierce battle between contending males, I was ultimately con-
strained to break it up for I felt the combatants were unevenly matched in
size. It's easy to disturb a chameleon. The merest touch of a finger to the
tip of a tail is all it takes. In this battle the big one clamped his jaws about
the snout of the smaller one and hung on so tenaciously that the little chap's
hind legs were bouncing on the screen. But despite my intervention, which
gave him a chance to escape, that feisty little bugger leaped back into the
fray and was shortly driven from the field.
The victor in this struggle, named Champ, was one tough hombre who
stayed green all the time, it seemed. He was unmatched for sheer ef-
frontery, and claimed the entire back of the house, as well as the patio, as
his territory. He patrolled relentlessly, once chasing an interloper all the
way to the west end of the house where he vanished around the corner, still
in hot pursuit. Champ would display at any provocation and even when
there was no evident reason. He was a great show-off, with his "Hey!
Look at me!" macho demonstrations that wowed most of the females and
scared most of the males. For the uninformed, a display involves a series of
push-ups and head-bobs, accompanied by the extension of a throat fan
which only the males possess. Champ's was bright orange, a nice contrast
to his brilliant green hide. They display during skirmishes for territory or as
part of a courtship ritual. My book says this display makes them vulnerable
to predators and uses up much energy. Champ had energy to spare,
especially sexual energy. In fact, he was downright horny most of the time.
One warm sunny afternoon when in the pursuit of I'amour, Champ
was making spectacular leaps between hanging plants that were as much as
two feet apart, and with the last leap he landed squarely on the back of a
hapless female. She struggled valiantly to escape, poor dear, climbing
laboriously up the screen while he clung to her back and bit her on the neck.
At one point she even loosened her foothold on the screen and they fell
together, landing with a small "thud" on a ledge. When this maneuver fail-
ed to dislodge Champ, she began another grueling climb back up the screen
with that great oaf still as firmly ensconced on her back as if he had been
glued in place, still biting her neck. Finally, sheer exhaustion, I presume,
overcame her and she submitted to her fate. Champ then wound his tail
around hers, braced his feet, closed his eyes, and appeared to sleep. It
seems to me she's the one who should be tired. After a surprisingly long in-
terlude he released her, and with a good bit of aplomb, she turned and ate a
When I recounted this episode to the psychologists in my department,
they suggested that the females probably got their jollies by pretending to
resist, which certainly tells you something about psychologists, doesn't it?
And the biologists prated on about the necessity of the female being "sex-
ually receptive" and all that for mating to occur. Pooh! I maintain that
female was a reluctant maiden and that her ravaging was nothing short of
Later I found I was defending my voyeurism to myself, passing it off as
the "scientific investigation of the copulatory habits of the Anolis
carolinesis" rather than prurient interest. This is in addition to justifying
the time wasted when I should have been engaged in some sort of productive
labor, not lolling on the patio watching lizards. I grew up in an era when
girls hastily averted their eyes at the mating behavior of dogs in the court-
yard, while loutish boys snouted and pointed at the offending scene, and
made lewd remarks. They probably grew up to become psychologists. I
was also taught that one must earn leisure time, and that time squanderers
would be punished in the Hereafter.
A propos of the cultural concepts of time, I once asked a class if time
spent watching chameleons would be considered as frittering. The concen-
sus was that it would indeed be considered frittering, which they thought
was worse than puttering. Putterers were at least doing something, while
fritterers were just doing nothing. One student did say the expenditure of
time could be justified as "learning something about animal behavior."
Not one suggested that chameleon-watching in particular, and backyard-
watching in general, was okay for the sheer delight it gives me. An in-
teresting commentary on the way Americans regard time and the correct
way to use it. I used to keep a balance sheet in my head of time spent, and
time frittered was entered in the debit column and had to be balanced by
some useful endeavor such as cleaning the bathroom or weeding the garden.
Lately I've come to consider chameleon-yard-watching as restoring my
spirit and uplifting my soul, hence therapeutic, and 1 no longer need to enter
it as a debit.
Next time I'll tell you about the head grackle who monopolizes two
bird baths, his own and the one I got for the sparrows. Or maybe I'll tell
you about the grackle picnic attended by mothers and babies. Or the hum-
mingbird who loses altitude on his backward flight from the nectar feeder.
A cavalier marvel named Andy
That quaint metaphysical dandy
Offered versions of joy
To his mistresses coy
And kept aphrodisiacs handy.
Golden autumn sun
Sparkling on golden
Spring hair flowing
over rosy cheeks.
in setting sun
(as texture and shade are mapped)
and ruby lips smile
(as camera snaps)
as forty moods of green
and red-orange leaves call us out of
Winter cool blows
through my hair, and
Warm summer breezes
around my feet,
As spring -- April
Showers and champagne
Laughs at my side.
A Man Stood Facing Toward
A man stood facing toward the storm,
He stood and watched it all begin.
He watched the gathering clouds take form
And felt their tempest boil within.
The rushing wind sang in his ears —
Caressed his body and his face ~
Sped on like all the passing years,
And urged his heart to faster pace.
He watched the river* s roll increase
From grey-green swell to darker wave
That frothed and foamed surcease
In answer to the wind's wild rave.
Tumultuous clouds now filled the sky --
The marshes whipped, by storm affected »
A brilliant lightening bolt on high
The blackness of the clouds bisected.
As mute, and overrawed he stood,
He felt the power of the storm —
Felt the wind whip where it would
And wondered why he had been born.
Then swiftly did his dark mood end
And forgetful of his doubts and fears
He felt a kinship with the wind ~
He felt the storm and he were peers.
He thought, "We're brothers, you and I, "
"Across the mighty seas we've fared.
I've snatched your power from the sky,
And sailed where others haven't dared. "
"I've built machines faster than you —
Used well my hands all of my life.
I've done the best work that I knew -
And borne erect my share of strife. "
"In me there is a power stronger
Than ail your shouting there above.
I am alive! I will last longer ~
And I can laugh, and cry, and love!**
"When you are gone, I'll still exist,
Here, undiminished, on my land.
I know, altho' there's joys I've missed,
The best of all God's works is man. "
Dana Wise Stern
Mount St. Helens
It is another morning,
and the hummingbird comes.
The melancholy clouds sift back
the ashes spread upon their silk.
If there's another pyre, remember hopes
forever silenced by the shroud
encircling those who went to climb
the Jacob 's ladder of the heart.
O urban Cleopatras
Twist my eyes
Until my youth and hope pucker
"Now her beauty, so it is reported,
was not so passing as unmatchable
of other women, nor yet such as
upon present beauty did enamour men
with her; but
company and conversation
that a man could not possibly but
be taken in. "
Hearing, or stirring our own dystrophic tongues
With a sugared infant simper of love-
in stalwart contadiction
A Telecommunicated Touch
Or an angry speech, an angry lack
With passionate falsetto cracks-
The urgent proscenium echos chasing
From the early afternoon love broadcast
There are many
Striding, swinging, swaying, sultry speaking
And the less fabulous can be made up more
But to find an equal beauty in her talk;
A timeless... (sensuality) - oh -
Logic (when desired)
Devotion... caresses, fondling, fingers in my hair
A nice husky voice, like
Devotion - a real Portia
But more like -
Your urban Cleopatra, when she speaks -
Which is enough, but not butting in or anything
She laughs a lot. That's what pleasure is.
She swings -
A circumambulatory foot northeast
The sequent skids on a nor 'west tack
She swings -
And her hair, charged
By a momentary gravitational clasp
Rollicking around their center, the locks
Flicker pasty strip illumination
Frozen, too, are the stutters in her eyes
But to find, in the foyer, an equal beauty
A hotter light.
Michael J. Alwan
Joseph Conrad's View
In HEART OF DARKNESS
This paper was written FALL 1983 for
Mr. William Martin 's ENGLISH 201,
Joseph Conrad's novella Heart Of Darkness is a masterpiece of English
literature, a work of major importance for several reasons. At its lowest
level, the story may be viewed as an adventure tale, complete with a lush but
dangerous setting and an unusual cast of chracters. It may also be seen as
Conrad's personal indictment of the injustices of the imperialist system of
exploitation for profit. Both of these views are valid considerations,
especially in light of the fact that Conrad himself had many experiences
similar to those of his secondary narrator Charlie Marlow during the course
of his own journey up the Congo.
Edward Garnett, the man credited with the discovery of Conrad's
talent, once called Heart Of Darkness:
A most amazing, consummate piece of artistic diablerie--
an analysis of the white man's morale when let loose from
European restaint, and panted down in the tropics as an
'emissary of light' armed to the teeth to make trade profits
out of subject races. The gulf between the white man's
system and the black man's comprehension of its results-
the unnerved, degenerating whites staring all day and every
day at the heart of darkness which is alike meaningless and
threatening to their own creed and conception of life.... 1
Garnett is obviously concerned with the story mainly as a commentary on
the colonizers and their treatment of the Congo natives. However, he also
touches on the more important theme of the story. The title of the book
itself is suggestive of the deeper meaning which Conrad intended. As Ian
Watt writes in analysis of the title:
The more concrete of the two terms, 'heart,' is attributed a
strategic centrality within a formless and infinite abstrac-
tion, 'darkness'; the combination defies both visualization
and logic. How can something inorganic like darkness
have an organic center of life and feeling? How can a
shapeless absence of light compact itself into a formed and
pulsing presence? And what are we to make of a 'good' en-
tity like a heart becoming, of all things, a controlling part
of a 'bad' one like darkness? 2
All this is incomprehensible unless we consider, as Conrad intended, the im-
plications it has on human attitudes and actions. By far the most important
interpretation of the story is its chilling comment on the nature and condi-
tion of man. The "degenerating whites" in the Congo, stripped of their
social and moral standards of conduct, grow less and less civilized, more
and more savage. It is Conrad's intention, through his somewhat exag-
gerated portrayal of the changes that transform Kurtz and the others, to
show how man, in the absence of outside restraints on his behaviour, must
rely on internal character, often sadly lacking, to maintain the illusion of
For to Conrad, civilization is merely an illusion, a subterfuge disguis-
ing the true nature of man and society. Marlow makes this discovery during
the course of his journey up the Congo. His comment concerning the civiliz-
ed world of London that "this also has been one of the dark places of the
earth" is indicative of Conrad's idea that civilization is a mere covering over
the darkness within. "We are made to see civilization... as a brief interrup-
tion of the normal rule of darkness." 3
From this it naturally follows that man himself is equally hidden by
layers of illusion which often successfully conceal his true nature, even from
himself. As Linda Anderson writes:
In Heart of Darkness it is one of Marlow's most fun-
damental discoveries, forced on him by his entry into an
alien environment, that people do not express their true
identities but rather the roles assigned to them by their
cultural situtations. 4
Heart Of Darkness abounds with examples of "the superficiality and
pretence of a mask. "(Anderson, p. 511) For instance, the accountant,
whom Marlow meets at the first African trading station, keeps up an
elaborately stylish and pretentious appearance in spite of theuselessnessof
such an endeavour. Furthermore,the accountant is extremely devoted to his
work, and allows no interference from such trivialities as dying natives or
sick men. Although the accountant's affectations are obviously false and
absurdly out of place, Marlow respects the man's tenacity in holding on to
what is important to him.
Marlow, then, seems to accept the fact that men mask their true ap-
pearences, attitudes, and character. Even he, who "hates a lie," finds
himself masking truth in his lie to Kurtz's intended. His purpose in lying is
to allow the woman to keep her illusions of Kurtz intact. For as he says,
without illusion life would be "too dark-to dark altogether."
Conrad is aware of the importance of maintaining illusions. As Robert
Penn Warren expresses it:
...the last wisdom is for man to realize that though his
values are illusions, the illusion is necessary, is infinitely
precious, is the mark of his human achievment, and is, in
the end, his only truth. 5
To live without the comforting illusions of civilization-religion, morality,
generosity, etc. -leads, in Heart Of Darkness, to the creature Kurtz
becomes, a monster of greed, corruption, and enormous power loosed on
the jungle to take his fill of whatever he wants. It is apparently Conrad's
opinion that man, when freed from the restraining influences of civiliza-
tion, is nothing more than an especially cunning beast. He shares this view
with the great seventeenth-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes,
who wrote that the life of man in the state of nature (that is, without socie-
ty) is necessarily "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." 6
Throughout the story, Conrad expresses the idea of Nature as hostile
and indifferent to the sufferings of men. He is aware of the way in which en-
vironment affects a man's behaviour and outlook. It is easy for men living
in civilized Europe, men "moored with good addresses," to despise the lack
of restraint and decorum displayed by Kurtz. However, when cut adrift
from the influences of society and left at the mercy of nature and his own
dark needs, a man can revert to the savagery from which he came and to
which he is inseverably linked. Man's individuality is dependent on his in-
teraction with the larger group. Kurtz, by depending solely on himself and
dissociating himself from all cultural infuences, is forced to face his true
nature, dark and greedy and uncontollable. (Anderson, p. 5 14)
In spite of Kurtz's monstrousness, he gains Marlow's respect and ad-
miration. Part of the reason for Marlow's affinity with Kurtz is the similari-
ty between their goals. At the outset of his mission, Kurtz had nothing but
good intentions and high-minded ideals, conceptions which were* 'purely in-
dividualistic, supremely romantic, and grossly melodramatic." 7 Marlow
and Kurtz share certain values at first, and both come to realize through
their experiences the worthlessness and absurdity of such values. Even the
one redeeming quality which Kurtz possesses, his devotion to his life's
work, comes to a foul end. "Through Kurtz's experience, Marlow learns
that a man is defined by his work: Kurtz's work has created a hell in the
jungle, which destroys him." 8
Regardless of the lesson he learns from his brief contact with Kurtz,
Marlow remains faithful to the "nightmare of his choice," even going so
far as to lie for him. This, again, indicates his acceptance of Kurtz and what
he becomes as natural and inevitable considering the circumstances. "Con-
rad's concern is with a powerful sense of potential weakness and betrayal
lurking under an apparent confidence in an established code of behaviour
and waiting for the right circumstances of stress to emerge, often with
devastating power." 9 Marlow becomes familiar with this potential within
all men, himself included, and this explains his relative lack of revulsion for
Kurtz. It also explains his attitude toward what he terms the "flabby devil"
of the establishment, those men who feel the same urges and temptations
that Kurtz does, but who lack the honesty and forthrightness to give way to
Conrad's view of man is strikingly similar to that of his contemporary,
Sigmund Freud. Freud thought society necessary to protect man from his
two greatest enemies; the external enemy, Nature, and the internal enemy,
the nature of man. 10 Freud held that man was ruled in everything by his
"id," that greedy and selfish child of the subconcious that demands the
satisfaction of all lusts and appetites, and is held in check by the counter-
balancing forces of the ego and the super-ego. Freud was convinced that
civilization was merely a means to control and restrain man's natural
tendencies. Conrad is showing in Heart Of Darkness the results of removing
the restraints of civilization and allowing the id to reign unchecked. (Watt,
Conrad's unmistakable concern with nature and its effects on man is
linked to a popular nineteenth-century scietific trend, Charles Darwin's
theory of evolution. The idea of the "survival of the fittest" was frequently
used to justify the exploitation of the Congo natives. Conrad, in reversing
the commonly held notion of evolution to demonstrate Kurtz's regression to
man's former savagery, is challenging the Social Darwinism "progress"
mentality of the time.
Darwin's theory of evolution was a great departure in thinking for the men
of that time. However, it was consistent with the necessary illusions of in-
evitable progress and the reasonable orderliness of nature and man that still
prevailed. Throughout Heart Of Darkness Conrad disputes these
nineteenth-century ideas by showing inevitable regression and the absurdity
In Conrad's day, disillusionment with religion and political systems led
men to embrace ideas like Social Darwinism and imperialism. A steady
breakdown of values that previously were widely held was the result.
Nineteenth-century thinkers were concerned, as Ian Watt writes, that "the
disappearance of God would destroy all social and moral sanctions for in-
dividual conduct, and that thereafter, in Tennyson's words, men would
'submit all things to desire.' " (Watt, p. 116) In Heart Of Darkness, Kurtz
does indeed experience this, and the absence of the god of social influence
leads him to follow the idea of evolution through to its natural conse-
quences; he takes over the role of God himself. "Man's last evolutionary
leap was to be up to the throne that he had emptied; up, and yet, at the same
time, it seemed, far down, and far back." (Watt, p. 119)
Kurtz's adventure as God fails miserably. His power is used in the
satisfaction of his own bestial lusts and desires; and he completely rejects
his former philanthropic stance. The only result of his "kinship with this
wild and passionate uproar" is his decline into a savagery far exceeding that
even of his "adorers," the cannibalistic natives. In showing this
phenomenon of deterioration, Conrad is clearly demonstrating his own opi-
nion of the true, deepest nature of man. Even his main concern in the story,
the semi-autobiographical character of Marlow, shows this inner darkness,
as he accepts almost without question Kurtz's behavior and nature.
However, Conrad softens his view of man by offering many examples
of the outside pressures that lead to Kurtz's loss of restraint and reversion to
savagery, the foremost of which is the influence of nature. The most horri-
ble aspect of the entire story is Marlow 's realization of the similarities bet-
ween himself, Kurtz, and the natives. His growing consciousness of the true
nature of man, as seen not only in Kurtz, but also in many of the other men
he encounters, forces Marlow to concede that the world in which he has had
so much faith is in reality only a temporary and illusory vision, and cannot
last or triumph over the undeniable nature of man and society.
Conrad expresses his own final view of man in a letter to his friend
What makes men tragic... is not that they are victims of
nature, it is that they are conscious of it.... There is no
morality, no knowledge, and no hope; there is only the
consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world
that whether seen as a convex or a concave mirror is
always but a vain and fleeting appearance. (Watt, p. 105)
Marlow 's dawning consciousness of the real nature of man is the focal point
of the story, as is his realization that his world no longer makes sense
because his illusions have been shattered by his contact with Kurtz.
In Heart of Darkness Conrad takes the reader on a frightening journey
behind the mask of society to view the true heart of man in all its darkness.
Fortunately, the glimpse he gives us, though powerful and effective, is not
the final word. Kurtz's dying cry, "the horror," although it can be inter-
preted in many ways, possibly is meant as a genuine epiphany; perhaps
Kurtz does realize the error of his ways and the "horror" of what he
becomes. But even if this is not so, even if his cry was merely another
manifestation of his selfish nature and he was horrified only of dying before
his work was done, the story still holds a bright hope for the future. This
hope is Marlow. For as long as people such as Marlow can exist, people who
are honest and hard-working and intelligent enough to know their limita-
tions and weaknesses, then Conrad's view of man, though dark, cannot be
totally black and hopeless.
1 Robert F. Haugh, "Heart of Darkness: Problem for Critics," in
Heart of Darkness: Essays in Criticism, ed. Robert Kimbrough (New York:
W. W. Norton and Company, 1963), p. 164.
2 Ian Watt, "Impressionism and Symbolism in Heart of Darkness," in
Joseph Conrad: a Commemoration, ed. Norman Sherry (London: The
Macmillan Press Ltd., 1976), p. 52.
3 Ian Watt, "Heart of Darkness and Nineteenth-Century Thought,"
Partisan Review, 45 no. 1 (1978), 109. This article is cited herafter as
4 Linda R. Anderson, "Ideas of Identity and Freedom in V. S. Naipaul
and Joseph Conrad," English Studies, 59 (1978), 511. This article is cited
herafter as Anderson.
5 John A. Palmer, Joseph Conrad's Fiction: A Study in Literary
Growth (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1968), p. 32.
6 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, in Heritage of Western Civilization,
Volume II, ed. John L. Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson (Englewood Cliffs,
N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982) p. 49.
7 John Oliver Perry, "Action, Vision, of Voice; The Moral Dilemmas
in Conrad's Tale Telling," Modern Fiction Studies, 10 (1964), 6.
8 Lillian Feder, ' barlow's Descent Into Hell," in Heart of Darkness:
Essays in Criticism, ed. Robert Kimbrough (New York: W. W. Norton and
Company, 1963) p. 187.
9 Douglas Hewitt, Conrad: A Reassessment (Totowa, N. J.: Rowman
and Littlefield, 1975) p. 129.
10 Alan M. Hollingsworth, * 'Freud, Conrad, and the Future of an Illu-
sion,' ■ in Heart of Darkness: Essays in Criticism, ed. Robert Kimbrough
(New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1963) p. 177.
MORE TALES FROM
The following two papers were written WINTER 1984 for
Dr. Lori Roth 's ENGLISH 201,
THE MILLER, writing to
To my Elder Sister Prudence,
Why did I let you talk me into this trip? I don't really believe in this St.
Thomas fella and my wart don't bother me like yours do. You shoulda
gone to Canterbury for yourself. It would pay you right if this Becket guy
only had one wart cure in him.
You oughta see the other people in this group. Whata crazy mix. We
got everything from a high bred knight to a group of nuns and priests down
to a reever. Most of them are putt'n on airs like this was some kind of high,
religious happening stead of them just going a begging like a commoner.
And to make matters the worst, there's not a respectable drinker in the lot.
I sure miss my tavern buddies back home. Old Josh may be a sloppy drunk
but by golly he makes a night worth remember' n.
We got this high talking man gonna make us swap stories all the way to
Canterbury and back. Says the best story will win a dinner back at the
tavern. But there ain't a decent tale among this whole group. Old Josh
could'a sure set their ears a'burnin. I'll tell one of his best when it comes
my turn. I ain't bother'n to listen to most of these stories but I have caught
The knight kinda surprized me. You would think a man with soldier
training and fight'n skills wouldn't have much book learn'n but this guy
told a right powerful story. It was all full of courage and honor and love
and duty and it had a lot of flowery words, but it was a pretty good tale. He
appears to be a high bred type and it ain't gone to his head like some. He
don't all the time push it on you but you know he's something special with a
The nun, though, is a different piece of cloth. She wears the habit and
says the words but you can tell she don't have her heart right. She keeps
three scrawny mutts and wears gold jewelry and pays too much attention to
how she looks to be making serious plans for the next life. Her story was a
bomb about what she called the virtues of chastity. Ha! Old Josh would'a
laughed her off the road. But at the end, her true self sneaked in and allow-
ed as how if everyone practiced chastity, pretty soon there wouldn't be
anyone left to practice anything.
Oh ho! The guy on the horse in front of me just fell off and landed flat
out in a pile of road apples. Boy, the language! If some of these stuffed
shirts loosen up a little maybe this won't be such a bad trip.
One thing scares me a little out here. This country is a lot bigger than
you think about. I mean, being stuck at home all the time don't give you a
reason to think about much you don't know.
Just finished tell'n my story! Used Old Josh's tale about the old cob-
bler who married the young wife. Course I changed it a little so it would be
about a carpenter instead of a cobbler. I did this cause the Reeve used to be
a carpenter and I don't like his looks. He's promised to pay me back when
it's his turn but I ain't worried. He's a thin, mean looking man, getting old
and he keeps to himself too much. Besides, he don't like my bagpipe play-
One member on this trip I got to tell you about. We call her the Wife
of Bath. This woman has been married five times already. She's a happy,
party type, but she ain't real pretty. She does have red hair like you, Pru,
but she's a lot heavier. Instead of warts, her bad point is a big gap in her
teeth. Maybe I should invite her home and she can teach you how to catch a
husband. One of her good points is that she is a classy dresser. She can also
ride a horse good as any man I know. But mainly, she laughs a lot and
listens well and is just fun to be around.
Somebody just hollered he was hungry so we're going to stop for
lunch. I'll post this letter to you now and maybe it will get home before I
WIFE OF BATH to the
WIFE OF TUB,
the wif e of Bath's sister
Dearest Wife of Tub,
I am writing to you in the hope that you could know of my most recent
pilgrimage to Canterbury. I am without a husband as my fifth has passed
away, but I do have five pilgrims to travel with. My five companions con-
sist of a Knight, Miller, Reeve, Pardoner, and Nun. We are in our fifth day
of travel and many strange dreams have filled my sleep. I wish to share my
dreams with you, for if I were to speak of my dreams to my company, they
would know my most secret mission and thus my search for a sixth husband
would be far too long.
Let me begin with the first night as I slept in the Tabard Inn. The night
had been a joyful one as we pilgrims told tales to pass the time. Most tales
suited me because the tales were of lustful love, which you know is my
weakness. Anyways, as I passed to sleep I began to dream of the Knight
and myself. He was so strong and distinguished as he approached the table
and asked me to dance. I immediately accepted and we danced until the
music stopped. His chest felt fine against my breast and thoughts raced
through my mind of how it would be for him to pay his debt to me. I
departed to my room hoping that he would follow. The Knight did not. In-
stead he raced to my balcony and started singing praises of me. He sang
about my proud being, fashionable dress, and beautiful body. I ran to the
balcony and found him standing there. He kneeled and kissed my hand.
"May I have the honor of paying you my debt," he asked, as he rose from
his knee. Alas! I never thought he'd ask! But I knew I had more to gain
than he, so I asked him for some token of his passion for me. "I shall give
you my finest horse, he said, "so you may ride to Canterbury with the
greatest of comfort.' * I accepted this offer and we made love the entire
night. When I awoke I was alone, only to find that half of my bed was
On the second day we began our pilgrimage early and stopped later that
evening at another inn, called the Grainer Inn. From the time we departed
the Tabard Inn until we arrived at the Grainer Inn, the Knight had only
looked at me once and that was when my hat of scarves accidentally toppled
from my head to the ground. I reached for the hat, but the Miller beat me
to it and handed the hat to me. "I'd like to have this heavy hat handy when
I weigh the grain," he said with a chuckle, as we continued our pilgrimage.
I said aloud, " Better to have a ten-pound hat on my head than a ten
-pound wart on my nose!" Laughter filled the air as the Miller's face turn-
ed as red as his beard. Time went fast as we chatted and drank in the
Grainer Inn and soon it was time for rest.
Let me now begin with the second dream. I was in a strange place, a
mill it seemed to be, and suddenly the Miller appeared before me. His eyes
were filled with lust as he marched toward me. My mind was debating
whether or not to accept his gestures, but I decided to play a little game with
him. "If you give me a token of our night together, I shall give you a night
to remember," I said . His face lit up like a virgin boy as he said, "I shall
give you my bagpiped only after I have my way with you! " With his brawn,
he forced me to the ground and began to grab my posterior. I laughed sexi-
ly, letting him think he was giving me great pleasure, but my pleasure was
the gift I was about to receive. He worked hard throughout the night as I
made him feel he was giving me great pleasure. He finally fell asleep atop
me and I soon followed, only to awake alone, and to find that half of my
bed was unslept.
We did not depart early the next day because the Reeve had delayed our
pilgrimage. He made a bet with the barmaid that he could guess the Inn's
last year's grain yield by looking at this year's. The Reeve won his bet and
remained extremely cocky for the remainder of the day.
Let me begin my dream on the third night as I slept at Carpenter Inn. I
was fast asleep as I was suddenly overcome with the smell of sawdust. I felt
someone's long thin fingers touch my face. The Reeve was lying beside me.
"MY! We sure are confident, aren't we!" I said as he grinned cunningly.
"I want you," he said. I laughed. "I knew you couldn't resist me," I said.
He replied, "I want you - now!" "What will you give me?" I said. "I
will give you a coat that was my Dutchess of Norfolk's," he said. He placed
the coat on my chair and had his way with me. When I awoke, I was alone,
only to find that half of my bed was unslept.
Now, my dearest Wife of Tub, comes the last dream which was drempt
at the Rome Inn. I had slept hard that night until I heard a strange, high
pitched voice singing through my door. I opened the door to find the Par-
doner standing, staring at me with his bulging eyes. "I have come unto you
bringing four pardons in hope that you would allow me to show you my
love," he said. Grabbing the four pardons from his hand, I pulled him in-
side. "If you love me, show me," I said, laughing to myself. He quickly
undressed and revealed unto me a most feminine figure. I had four pardons
I thought, so what's a little fun going to matter? I let the Pardoner caress
my body as I thought of how much a woman he favored. I never had such a
terrible time in bed! I fell asleep while he was still working hard! When I
awoke, I was alone, only to find that half of my bed was unslept.
Well, Wife of Tub, we are in our fifth day of travel and I have analyzed
my dreams and have realized what all four dreams mean. For the first
dream with the Knight, the horse was a sign of my stubborness. As people
say, "She's as stubborn as a horse's ass." In the second dream I was given
bagpipes, a place to blow my hot air into. The third gift was a coat, to cover
my gaudy clothes and ugly body with and the fourth gift was four pardons
to take away my four sins of this pilgrimage. My sins are my dreams and I
now realize I am too old to find a sixth husband.
Today, the fifth day of our pilgrimage, I have confessed all my sins to
the Prioress. She is taking me back to the convent so I can live the rest of
my days in solitude. I have found my sixth marriage with the Church.
My faith is with you and God,
Wife of Bath
This paper was written SUMMER 1983 for
Dr. Robert Strozier's ENGLISH 402,
FA ULKNER SEMINAR .
Insanity is more integral to a William Faulkner novel than punctua-
ion. Bizarre and convoluted rhetoric often conveys the reader into gothic
worlds populated by lunatics, idiots, and tragic misfits who command one's
empathy and seem to speak with a voice much like Faulkner's own. These
characters are more than sensational devices. They exist not only as
valuable literary entities but as reflections of the author's psyche and sym-
bols of universal significance, the parallel traumas of the loss of innocence
and the corruption of modern civilization.
Faulkner's mad heros are in the literary tradition of strange characters
created by Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dostoevsky and Melville. 1 His affinity
'or lunatics is evident in the protaganists of his earlier works: the idiot Ben-
jy in The Sound And The Fury; 2 Horace Benbow, the despairing hero of
Sanctuary; Joe Christmas, the confused protagonist of Light In August;
Darl Bundren of As I Lay Dying; and Quentin Compson in The Sound And
The Fury and Absalom, Absalom! These last two especially seem to share
many of the author's problems and obsessions. Faulkner's madmen, with
the notable exception of Popeye 3 (SA), are seldom perceived as intentional-
ly malevolent. Rather, they are among his most sensitive, noble, intelligent
and sympathetic creations, and he expected the reader to share his em-
pathies for them.
Faulkner has assured us that Darl is quite insane, 4 yet he has con-
structed As I Lay Dying so that we will closely identify with this particular
character. 5 Darl's monologue is the first in the book and the medium
through which we meet the Bundren family. His subsequent monologues
are more abundant than any of the others (he talks to us more), and his
poetic eloquence induces us to see him as the most intelligent person in the
book. It has been argued that his insanity is apparent from the beginning, in
his dissociated ramblings after the accident as he tries to sleep in a
In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep.
And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And
when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when
you are filled with sleep, you never were.I don't know what
I am. I don't know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is,
because he does not know that he does not know whether
he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he
is not what he is and he is what he is not... And Jewel is, so
Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could
not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I
am not emptied yet, I am is. AILD (76)
Although this interior monologue can be interpreted as an unhealthy
prelude to madness, it might also be seen as the ruminations of an intelligent
young man who, unlike his less cerebral brother, questions existence, reali-
ty, and identity. Note the similarities with the following:
So, because our senses sometimes play us false, I decided
to suppose that there was nothing at all which was such as
they cause us to imagine it... And finally, considering that
all the same thoughts that we have when we are awake can
also come to us when we are asleep, without any one of
them then being true, I resolved to pretend that nothing
which had ever entered my mind was any more true than
the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I
became aware that, while I decided thus to think that every
thing was false, it followed necessarily that I who thought
thus must be something; and observing that this truth: I
think, therefore I am, was so certain and so evident... that I
could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the
philosophy I was seeking. 6
This passage paradoxically shares with Dad's a sense of dislocation and
strangeness, yet it was written by Rene Descartes, the father of modern
philosophy. Rather than lable Descartes a lunatic, one is compelled to
reassess Dad's perceptions.
Identifying with Darl rather than his family or neighbors is inevitable,
for it is Darl who takes safety first as the wagon spills into the river (145);
who, disgusted at the charade of parading with a putrifying corpse, tries to
destroy it in a fire (208); who restrains his brother from a knife fight (220);
and who intuits that which he has not observed and describes it more vividly
than those who have seen (71). "It is surely this rustic Hamlet who has the
closest affinities with his creator... Dad is Faulkner's portrait of the artist as
a young madman." 7
Quentin Compson is likewise disturbed, yet his pain is so expressively
rendered that one cannot help but empathize. Though he is also quite in-
telligent, and Harvard educated, it is his idealism and sensitivity which
cause his derangement. Edmond L. Volpe describes Quentin's interior
monologue as a "heartfelt cry of despair, one of the most moving expres-
sions of disillusionment and suffering in literature," and compares his
plight to that of Satre and the existentialists. 8 Quentin seems far more pas-
sionate and noble than his peers, for example, when he defends the honor of
women (SAF-199), or observes that "a nigger is not a person so much as a
form of behaviour; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives
among." (106) He is not a suicidal maniac so much as a brilliant young man
who has seen more of life than he can assimilate. His is an "adolescent mind
in stasis," paralyzed by the chasm between his childhood ideas and the
realities, primarily sexual, of adulthood. 9
Other insane characters who engender sympathy are similarly un-
prepared to deal with reality. Benjy is innocent and loving-an eternal in-
fant; Joe Christmas is a prisoner of his cruel childhood with a proclivity for
disaster; Ike McCaslin, of Go Down Moses, repudiates his birthright
because of an inherited curse. Faulkner's early books abound with such
The counterpoint to these doomed epicene poets and misfits is the ra-
tional man of action such as Jason Compson and Jewel Bundren. Faulkner
has called Jason "the first sane Compson since before Culoden, and... the
last." 10 However, Jason can function better than Quentin only because his
values are those of modern society-he is generally regarded as a hateful
villain, even by his creator who called him "the most vicious character... I
ever thought of." 11 Jewel, the physically oriented counterpart of Darl, is far
less interesting than his brother and often less sensible-Dad frequently
manipulates him. Jewel is as incapable of madness as he is of Darl's keen
observations and descriptions. 12 Perhaps the only well-adjusted people in
Faulkner are extroverted paradigms of endurance such as Lena Grove of
Light in. August, or Dilsey of The Sound And The Fury, who display a
healthy stock of sensibility, love, and faith.
Several of the insane personae display a quixotic defiance of the ra-
tional world. They would rather lose everything than adapt to a world not
of their own creation. Quentin, Darl, Horace, Benjy, Joe, and Ike are por-
trayed as literal or emotional adolescents whose personal traumas are
thematically extended to represent universal tragedy. In general, they are
doomed by their own sensitivities because they perceive the monstrous ab-
surdity of existence. Faulkner seems to equate the imposition of maturity on
these innocents with the encroachment of modernity on tradition. Benjy
wails at every change in the status quo- from the loss of his sister's virginity
to the general decay of the South:
Then Ben wailed again, hopeless and prolonged. It was
nothing. Just sound. It might have been all time and in-
justice and sorrow become vocal for an instant by a con-
junction of planets. (SAF-359)
Quentin's honeysuckle summer, and Rosa's wistaria summer in Ab-
salom, Absalom! are permeated with a sense of sexual nausea, a virginal
dilemma of "love struggling against lust." 13 It is certainly a modern, cerebal
problem since a purely physical being such as a lower animal would not be
troubled so by morality. In The Sound And The Fury water is frequently us-
ed as a symbolic means of cleansing the stains of sexuality. Water is
employed when Caddy washes off her perfume (59), and when she looses
her virginity (84), and when Quentin makes his "fictional retreat to the
waters of the womb... that could not wash out the stain of her lust." 14
Darl seems to share this refusal to mature; in fact, his monologues are
strangely approximated by his youngest brother, Vardaman. Darl is
oblivious to Eula's flirtations (AILD-9), and he seems to associate sex with
an obscene spyglass which contains a scene of a woman coupled with a pig
Horace Bendow experiences extreme disillusionment as he realizes that
even the most idealized of women have sexual desires. This knowledge
causes him to vomit (SA-216). Joe Christmas has the same cathartic reac-
tion when he dates the woman to whom he will lose his virginity (LIA-178).
Even the less extreme characters such as Ike McCaslin are revolted by the
realities of adulthood. His repudiation of his inheritance and primitive ac-
ceptance of simpler values makes him an anachronism. These lost boys who
won't grow up seem to symbolize that which Old Ben epitomized in
Faulkner's most famous short story, "The Bear"-old ways and innocent
times which are rapidly disappearing. Faulkner himself said that the
predominance of psychological breakdown is an "ephemeral symptom of
the fear which has come about through the new pressures man has invented
for himself this century." 15 Cleanth Brooks, however, maintains that label-
ing all of Faulkner's negros, idiots, and children as primitives is misleading,
as is the tendency to equate their traumas only with the corruption of the
For it disposes the reader to see as local and sociological- ^
ly special what is in its essence universal. Faulkner is not
concerned merely with the collapse of the old order in the
South: he is concerned with the possibilities for order in
the world of modern man. 16
Faulkner is describing not only his characters' or his own adolescence but
the transition of the old world into the new. Modern man cannot avoid the
problems that a cerebal approach to life brings:
The wilderness to me was the past, which could be the old
evils, the old forces, which were by their own standards
right and correct, ruthless, but they lived and died by their
own code-they asked nothing. 17
The man who clings to the past must suffer the consequences: alienation; in-
sanity; destruction. Unlike many of his doomed creations, Faulkner preach-
ed endurance as the ultimate virtue and warned us not to " revert to an
idyllic condition in which the dream made us believe that we were happy. " 18
"To define madness,'' Shakeapeare wrote "what is't but to be nothing
else but mad? " 19 Remeiibering that insanity is a relative term, a good case
can be made for William Faulkner's madness, and subsequently, that of his
Conspicuously little is known of Faulkner's formative years. He was
born and raised in Mississippi and formally educated only to about junior
high school. His early years must have been peppered with stories of his
great-grandfather Col. William C. Faulkner-jailer, pamphleteer, soldier,
lawyer, duelist, railroad magnate, best-selling novelist, and politician. As a
teen, Billy Faulkner began to write poetry, and perhaps this is when a
palapable change occured:
By now his generally remote and dreamy behaviour began
to be commonly noted, and though he still pitched in
baseball season and quarterbacked pick-up football teams,
he was decidedly different from the rest. He wrote and
drew, and he read. He was silent and tended to keep to
himself. Some of the students at the Oxford High School
began to tease him and call him "quair." He made no
Like Darl and Quentin he was alienated from his peers. He was delicately
built and extremely short, and seems to have associated tallness with
masculinity. 21 His childhood sweetheart entered into a convenient marriage
with another boy. Young Faulkner worked at several unfulfilling jobs and
began to drink heavily. One can only speculate on the variety of demons
which may have tormented this rural teenage poet at the tumultuous start of
the twentieth century.
One demon who may have haunted Billy Faulkner was the spectre of
his great-grandfather. It was likely that this ancestor was used as a yardstick
against which the small, quiet and seemingly indolent boy failed to measure
up. This demon emerged later in Faulkner's writings in the avatars of Col-
pel Sartoris and Sutpen. Faulkner's ambivilance to these characters in-
dicates that he had morally condemned them but was fascinated by their
masculine force. 22
Faulkner's creations agonize over his own apparent obsessions. Incest,
death, miscegenation, decay, alchoholism, insanity and a panoply of other
morbid subjects infest his work. He has stated that his works were a com-
bination of "experience, observation, (and) imagination," 23 and one can
pnly guess which characters are most like their creator. As already noted,
|he most obvious autobiography seems to be rooted in Quentin and Darl.
^Stella Schoenberg has observed:
It is enough to the point that Quentin' s suicidal despair is
extraordinarily well-imagined and that generally
acknowledged alternatives to the irreversible plunge into
oblivion include alchohol and the creative imagination,
both of which Faulkner knew well. 24
It is interesting to note that Faulkner, for whatever reasons, did turn to
reative expression as an outlet. Unlike his misfits he thrived on hardship
ind struggle even in his writing. He said on several occasions that if he
wrote something that was perfect, that satisfied him completely, "nothing
remains but to cut the throat and quit." 25 It is probable that Billy Faulkner
mdured "a honeysuckle summer" wherein love became complicated,
values became empty, and heros suddenly seemed unheroic, but that it
strengthened him, as steel is tempered by fire, and relegated the flawed per-
sonae of Quentin and Darl to the scrap pile of the might-have-been to be ex-
Faullkner uses several unusual techniques to portray his characters'
states of mind. He was essentially a short story writer 26 and many of his
novels are collections of complete shorter stories or of one story fragmented
land retold through several viewpoints. The schizophrenic shifts in As I Lay
Dying give a unique, strangely transcendental overview of the action which
[mirrors Darl's ability to comprehend several distinct points of view and to
vividly imagine what he cannot have seen. The multiple viewpoints of Ab-
salom, Absalom! and especially those of The Sound And The Fury-idiot
receptor, suicidal narcissist, rational sociopath and limited omniscent-
Irepeat and clarify the story through a variety of styles appropriate to the
narrators. If Faulkner's own remarks are to be believed he wrote many of
his books with a minimum of conscious preparation and at furious speeds.
It is as if the collective unconscious that is so prevelant in his works is the
source of much of his inspiration. Within his books the physical becomes
metaphysical, the personal becomes universal, and the insignificant
becomes sublime-as if all time were simultaneous, myriad generations are
the same protoplasm, and the gods lurk somewhere just beyond the page.
Faulkner's weird brillance is as terrible and mysterious as that of his crea-
tions who spill, living and breathing, from his brain and into the minds of
readers, who only in retrospect realize that they have been mesmerized by a
Early in his career Faulkner, sounding very much like one of his disillu-
sioned characters, said:
When a man learns to read, he learns of the tragedy and
despair of his own kind which he himself may suffer. It is
better for him not to know this since he may escape it, but
once he reads it, it is a part of his life-a part of his own ex-
Faulkner, the world-weary poet, was already tainted by the fruit of that for-
bidden tree-the escape of the innocent lay barred behind him. Later,
perhaps having exorcised his demons by capturing them in print, he amend-
ed his statement. Regarding the poetic individual, he said:
It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by
reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and
pride and compassion and pity and sacrafice which have
been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely
be the record of mankind, it can be one of the props, the
pillars to help him endure and prevail. 28
It took William Faulkner half a lifetime, but he finally realized that there is,
and always has been, a method in the madness.
1 Faulkner often cites these as among the authors of his favorite
books. See Robert A. Jelliffe, ed., Faulkner At Nagano (Tokyo: Kenkyusha
Press, 1956), p. 42.
2 After the initial reference, titles of primary sources and page numbers
will be incorporated into the body of the paper parenthetically. Abbrevia-
tions will be as follows: Absalom, Absalom! (AA), As I Lay Dying (AILD),
Light In August (LIA), Sanctuary (SA), and The Sound And The Fury
(SAF). Pagination concurs with the Random House editions.
3 Hervey Cleckey, The Mask of Sanity (St. Louis: The C.V. Mosby
Co., 1950), p. 106.
4 Frederick L. Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, Faulkner in the Universtiy
(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1959), p. 110.
5 John K. Simon, "What Are You Laughing At Darl?" College
English, 25 (Nov. 1963), 106.
6 Rene Descartes, Discourse On Method And The Meditations, trans.
F.E. Sutcliffe (New York: Penguin Books, 1968), pp. 53-54.
7 Andre Bleikasten, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, trans. Roger Little
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), p. 90.
8 Edmond Volpe, A Reader's Guide To William Faulkner (New York:
Farran, Straus and Giroux, 1964), p. 118.
10 SAF p. 420 (Appendix)
H James B. Meriwether and Michael Millgate, Lion In The Garden
(New York: Random House, 1968), p. 146.
12 Simon, p. 106.
13 Melvin Backman, "Faulkner's Sick Heroes," Modern Fiction
Studies, 2 (Autumn 1956), p. 104.
14 Ibid., p. 106.
15 Joseph L. Fant and Robert Ashley, Faulkner At West Point (New
York: Random House, 1964), p. 80.
16 "Primitivism in The Sound And The Fury," English Institute
Essays 1952, Alan S. Downer ed. (New York: Columbia University Press,
1954), p. 17.
17 Jellife, p. 50.
18 Ibid., p. 78.
19 William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet (New York: Signet,
1963), p. 77.
20 Joseph Blotner, Faulkner, vol. I (New York: Random House, 1974),
21 Backman, p. 98.
22 Ibid., p. 108
23 Meriwether, p. 248.
24 Estella Schoenberg, Old Tales and Talking (Jackson: University
Press of Mississippi, 1977), p. 13.
25 Fant, p. 49
26 Volpe, p. 29.
27 Meriwether, pp. 14-15.
28 Fant, p. 132.
To Look Beyond The Meaning
Rita B. Enzmann
This paper is one in a series of three papers written SPRING 1983 for
Dr. Bradford L. Crain's ENGLISH 422, APPROACHES TO
Each paper concentrates on and emphasizes an area of writing and language
use: (1) STYLE; (2) SEMANTICS; and (3) THE COMPOSING PROCESS.
This paper focuses on Semantics : How words and their meanings
- relate facts and feelings about a specif ic place at a specific time,
- reflect how we think and communicate with each other, and
- create our perception of the world in which we live.
Out of the cold drizzle of fear and uncertainty,
The present slipping under our feet,
Breathing the doom hanging over Krakow
From the steel complex, Nowa Huta,
And courage, poison in Polish lungs-
The little kawiarnia, a cafe in a side street off the Rynek,
Was warm, intimate, a hermitage of courtesy,
And we were, briefly, safe.
Lithe Jolanta of the melancholoy eyes
That could burn green at times.
The deep red wine sparkled like blood
In its candle-lighted beaker.
The sweet roll melted like salvation on our tongues,
And we became transfigured, common humanity.
Life started to go on in conversation despite history.
Her voice almost whispered a retired, intellectual father
Who inspired his daughters to look beyond the meaning of unmeaning,
A sister finding a life in London
As if economics weren 't really fate,
Her young son kicking his toys around at midnight
To prove nothing has priority over self.
Older by a generation, still
I didn't feel like her grandfather, nor fatherly-
The first time in my life I had a pretty girl only for a friend.
I felt that she and I were there, across a table
In a kawiarnia, taking wine.
"I don't read the papers, watch television, or think about politics,
History frightens me, God left me long ago,
My husband is a Zomo, I want to be happy. "
Zomo... happy... clubs, water cannons, teargas,
The " 'secret police, " trained by the KGB.
Her happiness is her son.
Her green eyes glow with love-, but
(, He's very difficult, too damn smart. *'
If there was cold and rain outside,
Inside there was warmth, liquid melancholoy
Washing away, like the purifying wine,
The ubiquitous soot of news.
Copyrighted by William E. Taylor, 1983.
"Jobnta" portrays an intimate communication between two friends
-their thoughts and feelings about what they see going on in the world
around them: their present, their past, and their future. Reading the poem,
I feel as though William Taylor has chosen an extremely personal event as a
model to describe and demonstrate a greater universal concept involving a
unique characteristic of human nature: Man's capacity to bind time. 1 Time-
binding is man's capacity to invent and innovate, to see connections not
previously made between events in the past, present, and future. It is a pro-
cess by which man and culture evolve.
This time-binding ability is an integral part of the model of man as a
semantic transactor: his awareness of interactions and interrelationships
with his past, present, and future environments. It is the structure which
molds who we are. J. S. Bois contends that an individual's perception of his
interactions between the past, present, and future depend upon his own par-
ticular level of developed awareness in four different dimensions: (1) Think-
ing; (2) Feeling; (3) Self-moving; and (4) Electro-chemical. 2
Man shares two of these dimensions with plants and animals: (1)
Electro-chemical; and (2) Self-moving. Plants react electro-chemically to
their immediate environment by synthesizing the sun's energy for cellular
regeneration; animals, too, facilitate this ability, digesting food for energy,
etc. Animals differ from plants because they have the added capacity for
self-movement, enabling them to gather food, flee from danger, etc. The
ability of plants and animals to react in these dimensions is restricted to
what-is-going-on in their present environment; they show no capacity to
change patterns of behavior from one generation to another (with a few ex-
ceptions). 3 To use DeVito's and Keyser's example: A beaver builds a dam
in much the same way beavers built dams five hundred years ago, and pro-
bably will five hundred years from now; a bee dances to communicate to
other bees the specific location of food, but she cannot dance about her
dance. 4 However, the house a man builds today is not the same as a house
built a hundred years ago, nor is it the same as a house built a hundred years
To act and react, to invent and innovate on a thinking- feeling level of
awareness to his present, and his past, and his future environment is a
capacity unique to man. This characteristic of man to bind-time is an in-
tegral theme to Taylor's prom.
Within "Jolanta" we see two individuals reacting to their "present"
-the stark realities of martial law in Poland, the "past" - the influence of a
"retired, intellectual father / Who inspired his daughters to look beyond
the meaning of unmeaning," and Jolanta's hope for the "future"- her son.
These precious moments -- the sharing of private fears and dreams between
friends - is the essence of this poem. William Taylor intricately weaves im-
ages and facts with patterns of thought and feeling as we ride with him on
The little kawiarnia, a cafe in a side street off the Reynek,
was warm, intimate, a hermitage of courtesy,
And we were, briefly, safe.
. . . The deep red wine sparkled like blood
In its candle-lighted beaker.
The sweet roll melted like salvation on our tongues,
And we became transfigured, common humanity.
...Life started to go on in conversation despite history.
...I felt that she and I were there, across a table
In a kawiarnia, taking wine.
The cafe, the candles, the food, the wine, all create an atmosphere o:
friendship, pensive thought, and shared intimacies. The mellow melancho
ly mood becomes more intimate... precious... even ethereal... as Willian
Taylor speaks of the "blood" and "salvation on our tongues" - a silen
moment, a communion, a communication between himself and Jolanta. A
the wine becomes "like blood," so they "became transfigured, commoi
humanity." Their union becomes a total involvement - a blending o
spirits - as they seem to transcend time, despite everyday and world pro
blems. Friendship, time, and age mellow, blend, and grow together:
Older by a generation, still
I didn't feel like her father, nor fatherly ~
The first time in my life I had a pretty girl only for a friend.
J. S. Bois describes this special communication as:
...The encounter of two semantic transactors who hold
their thoughts, values, attitudes, and purposes, their past
experiences, their present feelings, and their anticipations
of the future in sensitive contact... Both see themselves as
learners in the sense that they are ready to accept the
lessons of this unrehearsed experience... (and) create a
stronger bond of reciprical appreciation and trust. 5
Their combined knowledge of generations past and dreams for the futur
create not an additive more, but a structural more ~ a geometrically increas
ed awareness of their transactions with the world around them.
However, beyond the walls of the kawiarnia, their present reality i
dark, oppresive, and violent.
Out of the cold drizzle of fear and uncertainty,
The present slipping under our feet,
Breathing the doom hanging over Krakow
From the steel complex, Nowa Huta,
And courage, poison in Polish lungs-
"I don't read the papers, watch television, or think about
History frightens me, God left me long ago,
My husband is a Zomo, I want to be happy. ' :
Zomo... happy... clubs, water canons, teargas,
The "secret police, " trained by the KGB.
Their reality is the everpresent existence of the pollution of Polish bodi*
and souls: the smoke and the soot from the Nowa Huta blanket their worl
ie "secret police" inflict paranoia, pain, and death among friends and
amilies. This fear, uncertainty, and doom only make the salvation inside
le kawiarnia that much more precious.
But life, in its infinite complexity, goes on and is ever-changing. Jolan-
i speaks of her father who inspired her to explore the unknown, to look at
fe differently, and to see beyond the ordinary realities of the present. Con-
iersation and thought turn from her father to her son:
Her young son kicking his toys around at midnight
To prove nothing has priority over self.
...Her happiness is her son.
Her green eyes glow with love --, but
"He's very difficult, too damn smart. "
le is her hope for tomorrow. There will be conflicts with the militaristic
ocial party, but his innate ability to invent and innovate, to explore beyond
he here and now, insures for him a tomorrow different from today.
Our journey does not reach an end. In "Jolanta" William Taylor
ecreates an extremely personal event which, for those traveling with him,
>ecomes a fresh learning experience and a part of the process of discovery
ind insight into ourselves and the world around us.
So, from time to time, may we too find a "warm, intimate hermitage
)f courtesy" and be briefly safe to feel and think freely about lessons of
ignificant value from past generation, see objectively the realities of our
>resent, and dream and plan for the promise of a better tomorrow.
1 J. Samuel Bois, The Art of Awareness: A Textbook on General
Semantics and Epistemics (Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company
Publishers, 3rd ed., 1978), pp. 121-123. Bois further explains "time-
Dinding": "According to the dictionary, 'to bind,' means among other
:hings 'to cause to cohere,' or to bring things together and to make out of
:hem a compound that becomes a new thing, a new unit, of which the
original units, previously differentiated, are blended and homogenized,
:hereby reaching a new level of energy, a new order of existence (and a new
evel of awareness)... Time, in this context does not refer so much to calen-
iar time as to the number of productive past generations whose products
ire parts or necessary conditions of what is done in the present."
2 Bois, pp. 28-29.
3 Bois, pp. 122-123.
4 Keyser, "Korzybski's Concept of Man," in Manhood of Humanity
ed. Alfred Korzybski (Lakeville, Conn.: International Non-Aristotelu
Library, 1950), p. 316; and Joseph A. DeVito, General Semantics: Guii
and Workbook (Deland, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, Inc., rev. ed. 1974), p.l,
5 Bois, p. 179.
Frantic pace terminates
Industrious hours evident;
Now printer's ink fixes precise
Immeasurable talents of the erudite:
Symmetry reflections now unchangeable.
Mary Alsten Johnson
Mary Alsten Johnson
Peter H. Clonts
Michael J. A I wan
Dr. Richard Raymond
Armstrong State College
A Unit of the University System of Georgia
This edition of Calliope could not have been possible without the help
of several ASC students and faculty members, including Dr. Robert
Strozier, Mr. Richard Nordquist, Mary Johnson, Peter Clonts, and Michael
Alwan. Our thanks go to each of them for their patience and assistance.
We especially appreciate the support of our Faculty Advisor, Dr. Richard
Because of the precedents established by the 1984 edition of Calliope,
we were challenged to produce an outstanding magazine, and the fine quali-
ty of writing and artwork submitted for consideration this year made the
task a relatively easy one, the hardest part being deciding what had to be left
out due to space limitations. We encourage all of the artists who supported
this edition and all of the other students, faculty, and staff of Armstrong to
help with future editions of Calliope as writers, artists, editors, advisors,
and readers. The 1985 edition of Calliope has been a pleasure to put
together and a great opportunity for gaining valuable experience in editing,
layout, and management of time, space, and funds.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous contribution of the Lillian
Spencer and Frank W. Spencer Foundation which made the award for the
best submission to Calliope possible.
This edition of Calliope is dedicated to Dr. Hugh Pendexter, and Miss
Lorraine Anchors for their continuing support of Armstrong State College,
and to the alumni of Armstrong in recognition of the college's fiftieth an-
niversary celebration this year.
Photo on previous pages by Liz Bailey
THE GREEN FUSE
OUT WEST, AT LAST
AN EXPLICATION OF' 'ARDOUR AND MEMORY"
WHAT'S IN A CAP?
THE TENDER YEARS
BOYHOOD INTO SYMBOL: THE
CHARACTERIZATION OF TOM
SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN
'DO I DARE, AND, DO I DARE?
BEHIND CELLAR DOORS
Anna Crowe Dewart
Steve Ealy Calliope, 5
/. Thomas Maddox
J. Thomas Maddox
NOW I LAY ME...
SHADES OF GRAY
POMP AND PAGEANTRY
TIME IS THE ESSENCE OF LIFE
SHAPES TO FILL A LACK
NOT JUST ANOTHER ORDINARY LOVE STORY
Anna Crowe Dewart
A FISH STORY
ROSES BLOOMING SILENTLY..."
THE STORY BOX
Painting by Mary A is ten Johnson
THE GREEN FUSE
OUT WEST, AT LAST
He's callin' boy,
don' wait 'roun'.
That's the big boss foreman
an' he's a standing there waiting.
He wants you now babe.
He's the headman wrangler
and he's definitely put the word on down.
So drop what you're doin',
it's time to split.
When the first cook is callin'
it is no time to be late.
The Chief Sitting Bull Custer Hating Redman
wants u all there;
for that last Little Big Horn,
amongst spears and arrows,
carbine bullets and stampeding horses.
It is no time to wait.
Git movin'! Don't WAIT.
Everyone knows when his time's here
and when yours comes,
Just race it to the death.
AN EXPLICATION OF "ARDOUR
Rosetti's sonnet, "Ardour and Memory, " centers on a reconciliation
of life and death. Both states are found to be inherent in each other and to
form a cycle which recurs eternally. Though the natural phenomena
described in the poem are marked by transitoriness, they acquire per-
manence by belonging to a process characterized by recurrence and con-
tinuity. In human beings, the passionate state and the mental faculty of
memory reflect the theme of permanence in ephemerality and the close in-
terconnection between life and death emphasized through the poem's lush
The choice of the Petrarchan form for this sonnet is appropriate
because the form elicits, through its structure, a response analogous to some
of the poem's themes. A Petrarchan sonnet is composed of an octave, a
turn, and a sestet. The octave in this sonnet consists of an uninterrupted
flow of images referring to sexuality and life, and the accumulation of these
images builds a steady sense of pressure. The intensity is released at the turn
as the speaker explains that the occurences in the natural world cataloged
are what "ardour loves, and memory"(line 9). An anti-climax then takes
place in the sestet which allows the speaker to reach a philosophical resolu-
tion to the problem of life and loss. The progression from pressure to
release and anti-climax intrinsic in the Petrarchan form is similar to the
stages undergone during an emotional experience or a sexual encounter.
Certain devices that also render themes concrete are personification
and the use of elongated vowels. Personifying natural elements reinforces
the sense of life and motion stressed in the octave. The cuckoo-throb is call-
ed "the heart-beat of the Spring"(line 1), "summer clouds... visit every
wing"(line 4), and streams of light are "furtive" and "flickering" (line 6).
The majority of vowels in the sonnet are long and drawn-out, supporting
through sound a slowness, sensuousness, and luxuriance that accord with
the richness and fertility of Nature.
Sexuality and fertility, from which life is derived, are represented by
color imagery, specifically references to red. The rosebud's blush (line 2),
the fires of sunrise and sunset (line 5), and the flush of ruddiness (line 13)
are all shades of red, and they connote passion, warmth, and sexuality, as
does the reference to the "lusts" of the morning (line 7). Birth, life's begin-
ning, is signified through Spring and the morning when light (another sym-
bol of life) is "re-born"(line 6). The speaker sees Nature as a continuous
cycle of birth, maturity, and death. The cuckoo-throb and the heartbeat are
rhythmic sounds suggesting pattern. The seasons mentioned in the poem
also represent a rhythm. The poem begins with spring, a time of renewal
and the awakening of new life. It then proceeds to summer, a season of
maturity, in line four. Though no season is mentioned in the sestet, the
absence of the rose flower hints at autumn and the coming of winter. The
ceaseless pattern present in seasonal and daily change is stressed through the
imagery of music. The cuckoo's throb (line 1), the birdsongs (line 8), and
the ditties and dirges (line 14) reflect rhythm and pattern, which music is
Though the imagery of the octave expresses life, ardor, and vitality, the
death that is naturally concomitant with them is also suggested. As the
rosebud matures into the full-grown flower that it must, it loses the blush of
youth and vibrancy. The summer clouds that touch objects with the colors
of the sunrise also touch them with those of sunset, implying that life and
death are rooted in the same source. The interrelationship that exists bet-
ween the two states is even found in the ambiguous use of the word "flicker-
ing." Flickering can mean a coming into being - a flickering into life - or
an extinguishing of it ~ the flickering out of life. Words and images per-
taining to death prefigure the loss made explicit in the sestet, where that loss
is expressed through references to flight. All joys are "flown"(line 9) and
the wind "swoops onward brandishing the light"(line 9) through the forest
boughs that are dark (a shade symbolic of death). However, though these
images accentuate death, the speaker affirms life again by asserting that
"Even yet the rose-tree's verdure left alone/ Will flush all ruddy though the
rose be gone" (lines 13-14). These lines explain the idea of central impor-
tance in the poem and link two main threads running through it.
Underlying "Ardour and Memory" is a perception of life and death as
being inextricably bound together. It appears in the physical world as a
continuous rhythmic cycle in which living creatures undergo the cycle of
birth and death. The process is circular and, as expressed in lines thirteen
and fourteen, death leaves incipient life in its wake, by which the cycle will
begin again. The seasons will recur. The sun will rise, pass through the sky,
set, and rise again; the rosebud will bloom, die, and be reborn next spring.
A larger state of immutability serves as a basis for transcience and apparent
Ardor and memory are human states that counterpart nature's life cy-
cle. Ardor is great intensity of emotion or desire, an immediate and vital ex-
perience destined to evanescence. However, the power of memory
establishes permanence to the intense moment by means of the mind's abili-
ty to recollect past experiences. Though the moment is gone forever, it can
be "re-lived" and the recollection functions as compensation. As the innate
quality of an intense experience is transcience, so the innate quality of
memory is permanence. The speaker equates ardor with life, passion, and
pleasure. Memory, though it takes a form of life through the power of
recollection, is similar to death in that it requires distance from the im-
mediate experience. Therefore, memory reconciles life and death.
WHAT'S IN A CAP?
/ was thinking back to my high school days,
And how nursing had entered my mind.
I thought of the caps and the treatment trays,
And the letters "R.N." I would sign.
I thought of the uniforms white as could be,
And the pin with the letters engraved.
Yet, how could I know or how could I see,
That Nursing's a road that you pave.
It's not your name, it's not your looks,
Or your voice or your hair or your eyes.
It isn't just marks, it isn't just books,
Or the early hour that you rise.
It's the smile that a patient had when you're done,
It's the "thank-you" that he gives you for his life.
It's the cry of the newborn as he becomes one
Of this great new world and its strife.
It's the mother whose family awaits her return,
Or the father who's too young to die.
It's the big and the little things that you learn,
It's the many times you ask why?"
It's not the cap but the head underneath,
That makes the Nurse what she is.
It's not the colored band or the high honored seat,
It's the heart that goes with all this.
THE TENDER YEARS
I can vividly remember those tender years of my early childhood: I was
the youngest and least attractive of six siblings. My mother wasted no af-
fection on me; rather, she showed me hardship and humiliation. Particular-
ly, I recall my first day of elementary school; in fact, it shall remain etched
in my mind for the duration of my life. I skipped hurriedly home with my
bright red apple, which I had finger painted with water colors. Beaming
with pride, unaware that I had streaks of red paint down the front of my
dress, I handed the picture to my mother. Anticipating her delight, I was
not prepared for what happened, for instead of joy, she shrieked as if in
distress. "Why did you mess up that dress? You are so stupid!" she
screamed. I wheeled and ran to my backyard treehouse, where I could still
hear her hollering, "Come back here or I'll tan your hide good!" Needless
to say, I stayed up there whimpering until way past dark; in the meantime,
I'd missed supper and subsequently was sent to bed without it.
By the time I'd reached age sixteen my brothers and sisters had all left
home. My mother dominated me; she told me what to do and what friends
to see. Smirking, as she often did, she said, "One day you'll thank me for
At age nineteen I knew I had to leave home. Confronting her one day,
I screamed through trembling lips, fighting back tears, "You don't love me
and you never will. All those years when I was a little girl you never hugged
me when I cried or patted me when I did something good. I can't live here
anymore; I have to leave." At that moment, I could hear the pounding of
my own heart. It took every ounce of gumption I ever possessed to utter
those words to my mother, who stood there speechless. Suddenly she look-
ed so lost and alone. With her hair tied back in a bun, I hadn't realized how
grey it had gotten around the temples. I noticed the deep lines across her
brow and the deep circles under her eyes, where a tear ran silently down her
cheek; she didn't bother to brush it away. She had on the green "over the
shoulder" apron I'd given her for Christmas four years ago; it was faded
almost white now, and I noticed two small gravy stains on the left pocket.
"I love you child," were her only words -- words I'd never heard her say
before. She said nothing more, so I left the following day, and she didn't
try to stop me.
The years passed quickly while I was away. I got married and had a
family whom I lost in a tragic automobile accident. I returned to my
mother's home only because I had nowhere else to go; surprisingly, she
welcomed me with open arms. We embraced for a long time, tears flowing
freely; at that moment, all the old feelings of bitterness and resentment
vanished, and I loved her more than I'd ever realized I could. Suddenly she
released me, fell to her knees while hugging my legs and lifted her eyes to the
sky, face shining with tears, and muttered, "Thank you for sending my
child back home to me. I'll never drive her away again." I helped her to
her feet, which were bound up in orthopedic shoes. She was an old lady
now, tired and work-worn; the years had taken their toll on her. She needed
me now, and I vowed that I'd be there to take care of her through her tender
years. I had to go through mine alone.
The tender years are the times in a person's life he is most vulnerable,
the times when loved ones are needed the most and the times when having a
strong shoulder to lean on is essential. These years are not only in
childhood, but in adulthood as well. My tender years, when I was growing
up, were most difficult; I felt so alone all the time. But with the care of a
loving husband, even for so short a time, I was able to put my true feelings
for my mother in perspective. I realized she did what she thought was right;
she did the best she could, and that's all we have a right to ask of anyone.
We now speak openly and freely about those years; she has regrets, but I
don't have any hard feelings.
H * <-
BOYHOOD INTO SYMBOL: THE
CHARACTERIZATION OF TOM
SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Like Mark Twain himself, the function of the title characters in first
Tom Sawyer and then later (and to a greater degree) in Huckleberry Finn is
a study in paradox. The books share a subject -- the anatomy of boyhood -
and a deep dedication to the realistic and believable. In this, Twain is a
more deeply hued and developed descendant of the "local color' '
brotherhood. However, the study of boyhood is shaded into a deeper cur-
rent of symbolic duality which anticipates the moral dilemmas of
adulthood. This duality is present within each book (in varying doses) and
between the books, as well, and is founded upon and enhanced by that strict
attention to the literal characteristic of Twain. Twain fairly trumpets the in-
tense care given to this literal * 'backbone' ' to his message when he pro-
claims that he has painstakingly used no less than seven Mississippi River
area dialects in Huckleberry Finn.' Such attention makes the symbolic
dimension of Twain's characters even more striking in that they are real
people and not pasteboard figures.
However, the character of and the extent to which this foundation
realism leads into the symbolic are the basic points of difference between
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Both books are remarkable in their
veracity as to the real life of "the boy" in the nineteenth century. Lionel
Trilling declares that "one element in the greatness of Huckleberry Finn...
and Tom Sawyer is that they succeed first as boy's books." 2 The freshness
of the portrait is especially striking in comparison with contemporary
counterparts such as the effete Little Lord Fauntleroy of Frances Hodgson
Burnett and the stereotypical "Bad Boys" which were familiar figures in
scolding Sunday School tracts and were further popularized by Thomas
Bailey Aldrich's 1870 book (The Story of a Bad Boy).* Twain's boys are liv-
ing, breathing creatures of the species. Yet, this realism does differ in its
distance and point of view. Herein lies the crucial parting between Tom
Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In this parting, one finds the reason why
symbolism is so pervasive in Huckleberry Finn and not in Tom Sawyer,
although characters are defined and pushed in their respective directions in
the earlier book.
However, Twain denied that even Tom Sawyer was intended as a boy's
book. He tells his friend and editor, William Dean Howells, that "it is not a
boy's book at all. It will only be read by adults. It is only written for
adults."* This judgement proved wrong as the realism and humour proved
a magnet for boys, and Howells convinced Twain to market the book
towards the young audience. Yet, Twain's evaluation is correct in that Tom
Sawyer is certainly adult in its point of view and distance. It is a third per-
son re-telling of accurately remembered aspects of boyhood. T.S. Eliot
comments that its viewpoint resembles "the adult observing the boy... Tom
is... very much the boy that Mark Twain had been; he is remembered and
described as he seemed to his elders, rather than created."' Twain himself
remarks in the preface to Tom Sawyer that "part of my plan has been to
pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves"(Clemens, An-
notated Huckleberry Finn, p. 25). Characteristically, the memories of the
adult stifle the gloomy and allow the rosier and more idyllic facets of that
remembered boyhood to flower. This position is possible because Tom
Sawyer confines itself to a childhood world and deals only in a small part
with adult issues (Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p. 29). Twain
summarized the nostalgic aura which surrounds Tom Sawyer:
Schoolboy days are not happier than the days of
after-life, but we look upon them regretfully because
we have forgotten... all the sorrows and privations of
that canonized epoch and remember only its orchard
robberies, its wooden sword pageants and its fishing
In contrast, Huckleberry Finn takes up those aspects of boyhood which
only too grimly and inexorably foreshadow the moral perplexities of the
adult life. The novel is couched in the first person which conveys an imme-
diency and lack of romanticism which involves the reader as a character
rather than as an observer. The personal expression available through first
person provides an empathy and a sense of the boy's thoughts as he is think-
ing them rather than merely the structural framework of that boy's world as
in Tom Sawyer. This particular quality is startlingly apparent when descrip-
tions of sunrises from both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are com-
pared. Tom Sawyer's point of view induces a literary, imposed impression
whilst Huckleberry Finn is the sunrise through the boy's own vernacular.
For example, in Tom Sawyer "a grey squirrel and a big fellow of the fox
kind came slurrying along sitting up at intervals to inspect and chatter at
the boys." In Huckleberry Finn, a similar aspect of the sunrise scene is dealt
with in this way: "a couple of squirrels sat on a limb and jabbered at me
very friendly"(Blair, p. 74).
This plain, unadorned prose in Huckleberry Finn is a fitting accom-
paniment to its tone and harsher issues. Doc Robertson's murder and Injun
Joe's horrible death through starvation are certainly evidence of ugly adult
realities, but these events have the almost comforting quality of the
melodrama in that Injun Joe is clearly all bad against good as represented
by Tom and the society. There is none of the uneasy ambivalence of such
characters as the Duke and the King or the "chivalrous" Granger fords
here. Tom's life is that of the black and white adventure and the
mischievous rebellion against Aunt Polly's authority through pranks such
as dosing the case with the hated painkiller. But, the Tightness of the
general standards is questioned neither by Tom nor Twain (Blair, p. 75).
Despite his boyish unruliness, Tom is "wholly a social being" who has "an
environment into which he fits"(Eliot, p. 329). The movement of Tom
Sawyer carries from childish revolt to a "triumphant confirmation of
Tom's membership in the cult of the respectable."' Huck accepts these
standards in Tom Sawyer though they make him uncomfortable and vows
that he "will stick to the widder till I rot,"' if he can then join Tom's gang.
Still, Huck is a social outcast and, thus, is free from the bonds of conven-
tion that confine Tom. Huck "did not have to go to school or church, or
call any being master or obey anybody... he never had to wash or put c
clean clothes"(Clemens, Tom Sawyer, p. 62). Townsfolk comment th
"Huck Finn ain't a name to open many doors, I judge! "(Clemens, To
Sawyer, p. 233). But, this societal censure gives Huck the freedom ai
potential to examine society, if innocently, in a manner that Tom nev
could with his hampering role in society and overweening imaginatk
In other words, in Tom Sawyer the potential for symbol is laid, but n
developed. There is no need for it in the type of book that Tom Sawyer i:
The use of Huck as the major character in Twain's ' 'sequel" to To
Sawyer is surely indicative of Twain's realization that Huck could tack
issues through his pragmatism and position outside society in a way deni<
to Tom, the very product of civilization. Twain says frankly that if he toe
Tom on into manhood "he would just lie like all the one-horse men
literature and the reader would develop a hearty contempt fi
him"(Clemens, Letters, p. 86). Tom is clearly already possessed by tl
dreadful "Walter Scott disease "(Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Fin
p. 139) which had (according to Twain) taken hold of the nineteenth centu
imagination - particularly that of the "Old South" variety. Huck, on t
other hand, possesses an uninfiltrated consciousness and pragmatism th
demand a kindness and logic which have been milked out of civilizatior
He can watch the punishment of the Duke and King which can certainly
justified and yet comment that he was "sorry for them poor, pitif
rascals... human beings can be awful cruel to one another"(Clemer
Huckleberry Finn, p. 182).
This basic "romantic-realistic quarrel"' is meat for Twain's artisi
palate because this dichotomy is illustrated best in Twain himself. T
romantic, exalted Tom in him sees man as a subject for humour and mer
ment and dwells upon the boyhood dreams which rolled along with t
Mississippi's currents. He is, then, "Tom Sawyer grown-up" in some wa)
and the appeal of the beacons of success, applause, and universal approv
is expressed in his donning of the role of popular "humourist and ev
clown"(Eliot, p. 330). As Huck says: "Tom had his store clothes on, ai
an audience -and that was always nuts for Tom Sawyer"(Clemer
Huckleberry Finn, p. 179). This sentimental and romantic side of Twa
produced the imaginative veil which built Tom Sawyer and gloried in "c
cuses, revival meetings, minstrel shows... and patriotic holidays celebrat
with spread-eagle speeches.""
However, Twain's Tom lacks autonomy because of the Huck that al
dwells in Twain. This Huck sees past life's glittering veneer and perceiv
the evil and heart-soreness of human existence. He possesses the roma
ticism of Thoreau rather than that of Scott. He looks not at the laws, but
their effectiveness and their capacity for good. He, thus, bypasses mindle
attention to tradition through his role as observer and outcast. Twain
Huck could not forget the dark intrusions of adulthood that shadowed 1
boyhood and embittered him in later adult life into skepticism and criticis
of social institutions. Such experiences in Huckleberry Finn as t
Sherburn-Boggs duel, the lynching and hunting down of runaway slav<
and such seamy characters as the town drunkard, Pap Finn (known
Hanibal, Twain's hometown, as Jimmy Finn) were based upon Twaii
darker memories (Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p. 56).
As a base for Huckleberry Finn's sequences, Twain saw or heard of, in
his boyhood, "practical jokes brutal enough to unhinge their victims, in-
sanity, the beaten lives of squatters and derelicts, hangings, drownings,
rapes, lynchings, terminal alcoholism and murders" (Kaplan, p. 24). All of
this grimness occurred in the passage of a childhood in that same sleepy
town of Hannibal which had smiled so benevolently on Tom Sawyer as the
town of Saint Petersburg in Tom Sawyer. This dichotomy of outlook and
experience affected the course of Twain's art and is a major source of
dynamic tension in Huckleberry Finn. Twain's writing may, thus, be seen
as an indulging and then fighting back of the idealistic-romantic impulse.
As has been hinted, this impulse is fed by forcing the idealism of
"bookishness" into life rather than the true moral character of life into
books. All of Tom's pirate, detective, and "blood and thunder" reading is
used as fodder for the vat of Tom's imagination (Clemens, Annotated
Huckleberry Finn, p. 28). But, Twain heaps the most scorn and attributes
the most damage to those books with pretensions such as those by Sir
Walter Scott, James Fennimore Cooper, Cervantes, and The Arabian
Nights. Twain's essay lambasting the general illogicality and pure bad
writing demonstrated by Cooper is well-known. In Huckleberry Finn, he
gives Tom that old "Cooper Indian" trick of betraying himself by stepping
on a dry twig (Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p. 62). The Walter
Scott symbolically founders as a steamboat revealing Twain's disgust with
that author who "set the world in love with dreams and phantoms... with
the silliness and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham
chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society" (Clemens,
Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p. 1 39). As Twain complained when trapped
in a sick-bed with Scott: "It is impossible to feel an interest in these
bloodless shams, these milk and water humbugs" (Clemens, Letters, p.
276). For Twain, Scott is the bombastic father of the Colonel Granger-
fords and Tom Sawyers.
Similarly the deluded Don Quixote is invoked by Tom's ambuscade of
a Sunday School picnic which he paints up to historical chronicle propor-
tions. Also, Tom's relationship to Huck in Huckleberry Finn (and Tom
Sawyer to some degree) echoes that of Don Quixote and the matter-of-fact
Sancho Panza who is more concerned with dinner than derring-do. In just
such a way, Tom exhorts the dubious Huck to rub an old tin lamp for genie-
conjuring purposes, in a reference to The Arabian Nights (Clemens, An-
notated Huckleberry Finn, p. 73-74).
If Tom uses these literary opiates to cope with the moral issues of life
such as slavery, Huck as "the most solitary figure in fiction"(Eliot, p. 329)
has to come up with his own fresh perceptions separated as he is from socie-
ty. Huck can only judge things from common sense and experience. He
may take the role of Tom or Miss Watson in "educating" Jim about kings
or the French language, but Huck never lets this artificial role carry on from
talk into action. When he has to do something, he simply does whatever has
to be done in order to do it. When he sees that his patronizing and superior
attitude toward Jim is cruel and harmful, he goes against the whole society
and "humbles himself to a nigger "(Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn,
pp. 150-152). When he lies, he does so in order to save himself or Jim from
very real danger in contrast to Tom who keeps back his knowledge of Jim's
free status in order to satisfy his craving for a liberation-adventure. When
Tom exclaims that he wanted "the adventure of it" and would have "wad-
ed neck-deep in blood to" get it (Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p.
226) his lie seems to be an incredibly vicious playing with the freedom that
Huck and Jim have struggled so desperately (physically and psychological-
ly) to gain."
It is quite true that Huck's natural tendencies lie toward pleasure, the
easy and uncomplicated escape from conscience, and a general antipathy
toward cruelty rather than toward the development of a genuine Northern
abolitionist conscience, as the critic, James M. Cox, points out. > Huck ex-
hibits these qualities when he shows his repulsion at the extreme punishment
of the confidence-men and the final battle of the feud. "It made me so sick
I most fell out of the tree," he confesses about his witnessing of Buck
Grangerford's death (Clemens, Huckleberry Finn, p. 94).
However, it is the very turning from such society-sanctioned
viciousness that points to the good, untainted heart which, eventually,
allows Huck to reject the machinery of that cruelty in his declaration, "All
right, then, I'll go to hell!" (Clemens, Huckleberry Finn, p. 69) which is
essentially a moral decision despite his passionate wish for no conscience.
Cox portrays this statement as a betrayal and return to the moral
framework of society from the natural pleasure principle; but truly this
statement can certainly be more likely viewed as the product of Huck's turn-
ing from cruelty rather than the reversal of it (Cox, "Uncomfortable En-
ding," pp. 355-356).
This discussion of the symbolic nature and development of Tom and
Huck leads, inevitably, to a consideration of the controversial ending of
Huckleberry Finn, in which this symbolic dichotomy comes to an uncom-
forting climax. This ending has aroused a veritable flood of critical opi-
nions ranging from full or qualified approval to a dissatisfied disapproval.
Much is said here about the disharmony in tone resulting from Tom taking
center stage here which moves the stylistic quality away from the tumultous,
yet lyrical, sun-dappled days on the river which form the book's mid-
section. The adult concerns of the journey are suddenly turned over to a
child. Lionel Trilling explains that this ending is a purposeful device to
retreat Huck to the background as he is not suited "to the attention and
glamour which attended a hero at book's end" (Trilling, p. 326) in contrast
to Tom's flamboyance. Eliot promotes the end as a cyclical reorientation to
the mood of the Tom Sawyerish beginning (Eliot, p. 334).
However, a great many critics have severely criticised the end. Hem-
ingway despised the section and advised that the reader "must stop where
Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just
cheating" (Clemens, Annotated Huckleberry Finn, p. 48). Leo Marx
chides Eliot and Trilling and charges Twain with insufficient courage in
dealing with the ill-fated end of a doomed search for freedom in a basically
chained society." Yet, after study of the symbolic characterization of Tom
and Huck in Huckleberry Finn, the most plausible view of the ending lies in
an expansion of this symbolic dimension. Thomas Arthur Gullason, Roy
Harvey Pearce and Judith Fetterley (the last two in detail) support this basic
thesis. In this scheme, Tom's reappearance at the Phelpes' farm after
Huck's crucial moral statement is a foil device which underlines the com-
plete condemnation of society's "sivilized" ways and results in Huck's final
intention to "light out ahead of the rest."- Tom's appearance at the begin-
ning of Huckleberry Finn is in keeping with the foolish idealism so strongly
debunked in the end, but the implications and consequences of his behavior
take on a new light in the closing section. These serious consequences of
romanticism are tied in with the general themes of man's inhumanity to
man and the affirmation of Jim's human worth (he saves Tom despite
Tom's treatment of him)(Gullason, p. 87).
How does Tom's behavior differ so radically here from his youthful hi-
jinks in the beginning? Well, Tom's actions in the first portion may finally
become too far-fetched and unsatisfying for his gang (they disband), but
these actions never seriously harm anyone and they do not tamper with so
serious an issue as the freedom of a man (Gullason, pp. 89-90). As Judith
Fetterley points out, there is a great deal of difference between giving a sob-
bing youngster a nickel to keep quiet about imaginary robbery plans and
reimbursing Jim with forty dollars for his very freedom and peace of mind
(Fetterley, p. 445).
The middle matter of the book undertakes this shift from the world of
childish recklessness into adult problems and problem adults. Huck strug-
gles with the cornerstones of society and makes his declaration. He is, con-
sistently, disgusted with the behavior that he sees along the river, but keeps
a fond vision of Tom and often wonders what Tom would do in a certain
situation. When he (Huck) and Jim discover the wrecked Walter Scott,
Huck muses, "Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? ...
He'd call it an adventure... and he'd land on that wreck if it was his last
act... I wish Tom Sawyer was here" (Clemens, Huckleberry Finn, p. 57).
Of course, Huck has Tom Sawyers all around him; he just has not realized
this fact. He does not connect the civilized brutes that he encounters with
an adult extension of the Tom Sawyeresque view of the world.
Nevertheless, upon retrospect, analogue characters throughout the
river journey foreshadow the new perspective of the reader on Tom Sawyer
in the last section. Such characters include Miss Watson, the King and the
Duke, and especially the Grangerfords. All of these characters use tradition
and genteel ways to conceal their own native brutality from others. Miss
Watson, the con men, and Tom accept things because that was the way that
things were written down, whether in the Bible or in romance novels. The
con men use literary pretensions (Shakespeare's plays) and noble titles to
glorify themselves and make money, although they certainly don't delude
themselves as Tom does. They merely prey on others' stupidity. However,
it is the Grangerfords' "code of honor" that calls up Tom the most. They
bow to each other, turn to face the bullets, and pay strict attention to feud
protocol. Behind this lies black hypocrisy and grim death (Fetterley, pp.
All through the trip down the Mississippi, these characters' basic bar-
barity is contrasted with Huck's clear-eyed, if not judgemental, view of
them. Huck is forced to deal with adult issues and to take a stand. He
chooses to reject the rules of the society and to follow what seems instinc-
tively right to him. But he does not yet correlate these adults with their
germ in Tom Sawyer. So, in the last section when Huck meets his old
friend, he is glad to turn things over to him. Huck has so much faith in and
respect for Tom that he is even a bit shocked that "a boy who was respec-
table and well-brung-up" (Clemens, Huckleberry Finn, p. 184) would buck
society as he himself is doing. As mature as Huck has become, he never
dreams that childish silliness lies behind this supposed earnestness and that
Tom knows that he is setting a freed man free. Thus, the basic static
character of Tom is set against the dynamic one of Huck and is clearly sym-
bolic of that society Huck has met along the river. Tom is a child, but
heretofore he has only dealt with equally childish matters, and his handling
of the crucial matter of Jim's freedom is horrifying in light of the insights
given to Huck and the reader in the mid-section (Gullason, pp. 89-90).
Tom can no longer be seen as a harmless child, but as a very harmful
potential adult who will be at least as blindly insensitive as "good people"
like the Phelpes' (Marx, p. 343) and perhaps as dangerous as the murderous
Grangerfords. Huck argues with Tom's impractical escape plans and
though he seems to give in, his disillusionment is encapsulated in his avowal
to "light out" to the Territory before the others. He has thoroughly
recognized and rejected the hypocrites, such as Tom, who make up the
civilizing influence (Gullason, p. 90).
Thus, although the end is, perhaps, overly long and farcical, the view-
ing of it from the symbolic perspective can give a clue into Twain's pur-
poses. Twain makes boyhood real, and throws some meaning in there to
heighten the flavor. The realistic handling of Tom and Huck is what makes
the reader take the symbolism to heart. In Huckleberry Finn, Twain lays
bare the hearts of his characters, the soul of society, and his own spirit.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
ed. Scully Bradley et al. (New York, London: W.W.Norton and Company,
1977), p. 2 (hereafter referred to in the text as Huckleberry Finn).
Samuel L. Clemens, The Annotated Huckleberry Finn, with in-
troduction, notes, and bibliography by Michael Patrick Hearn (New York:
Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1981), pp.26-27 (hereafter referred to in the text
as Annotated Huckleberry Finn).
Lionel Trilling, "The Greatness of Huckleberry Finn" cited in
Samuel L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York, London: W.W.Norton
and Company, 1977), p. 319 (hereafter referred to in the text as Trilling).
'Samuel L. Clemens, The Selected Letters of Mark Twain, ed. with
an introduction and commentary by Charles Neider (New York: Harper
and Row, 1982), p. 86 (hereafter referred to in the text as Letters).
T.S. Eliot, "An Introduction to Huckleberry Finn ," cited in Samuel
L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York, London: W.W.Norton and
Company, 1977), p. 329 (hereafter referred to in the text as Eliot).
•Walter Blair, Mark Twain and Huck Finn (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1962), p. 56 (hereafter referred to
in the text as Blair).
James M. Cox, "Remarks on the Sad Initiation of Huckleberry
Finn," cited in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: Problems in American
Civilization (Boston: P.C. Heath and Company, 1959), p. 67.
•Samuel L. Clemens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (New York:
The Heritage Reprints, 1936), p. 283 (hereafter referred to in the text as
Thomas Arthur Gullason, "The Fatal Ending of Huckleberry
Finn," American Literature, XXIX, March 1957, p. 89 (hereafter referred
to in the text as Gullason).
Justin Kaplan, Mark Twain and His World (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1974), p. 23 (hereafter referred to in the text as Kaplan).
Judith Fetterley, "Disenchantment: Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry
Finn" cited in Samuel L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York, London:
W.W.Norton and Company, 1977), pp. 442, 445-447 (hereafter referred to
in the text as Fetterley).
James M. Cox, "The Uncomfortable Ending of Huckleberry Finn ,"
cited in Samuel L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York, London:
W.W.Norton and Company, 1977), pp. 354-355 (hereafter referred to in the
text as "Uncomfortable Ending").
"Leo Marx, "Mr. Eliot, Mr. Trilling, and Huckleberry Finn ," cited in
Samuel L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York, London: W.W.Norton
and Company, 1977), p. 347 (hereafter referred to in the text as Marx).
•Roy Harvey Pearce, "The End, Yours Truely Huckleberry Finn:
Postscript," cited in Samuel L. Clemens, Huckleberry Finn (New York,
London: W.W.Norton and Company, 1977), pp. 361-362.
Photo by Liz Bailey
"DO I DARE, AND, DO I DARE?"
BEHIND CELLAR DOORS
Anna Crowe Dewart
The cellars for storing potatoes lay about the
desert-turned-farmland like Indian mounds and
beckoned to a child of four or five with the same
mysterious offerings. I remember cautiously creep-
ing down the rutted slope toward the great, wooden
doors - terrified but unable to stop myself - as if
some special siren were calling me. I would slip
through the doors and stand waiting, peering into the
cold, dark gloom, watching as the form of a great
curve took shape above me, its arc held in place by
huge beams straining against the earth. Sometimes I
had courage enough to edge my way down the sliver
of sunlight just far enough to make out the sepia-
gray speckles of potato-heaps held back from the
black tunnel by enormous staked and slotted boards.
When I dared, I would take a deep breath of the
thick, musty, decaying odor before the dark,
womblike earth-ness of it all compelled me to take
flight, back into the protecting sunlight. I would lean
against the doors, hugging their warmth to my back
and resolve to go much deeper into that vaulted abyss
of inviting terror — next time. Maybe someday "it"
would not longer "get" me and I could calmly walk
away when I wished, perhaps even go all the way
through, to the other end.
Listlessly the half-closed eyes watch
As a thousand yesterdays slowly melt into more and more.
What does this mean for us, you ask yourselves -
To you life is just a deadly bore, and the only reality - war.
But I have plans for my life
And while in vain you struggle for change,
I try to stay out of firing range,
But these days an empty trench is hard to find.
I battle to save myself
As a thousand tomorrows trickle down to only a few.
What does this mean for us, you ask yourselves.
I only wish you knew.
Hide in a hole and save yourself trouble
Is my advice for the day.
Then when it's all over, climb over the rubble
And chase the vultures away.
Dragons haunt the dreams of saints:
Smoke and fire curl round their feet
As they pray to God their is, their ain't,
And ask for stout heart to forestall retreat.
Dragons hunt in twilight hours,
When it's too dark to track them down.
They search for bones near ivory towers
Built on the outskirts of small towns.
Dragons hide in daylight bright,
They sleep in dank and musty caves,
They curse the sun that drains their might,
They dream of days of knights and knaves.
Dragons wake as evening nears,
They trim their claws and smooth their scales.
They flourish on man's inmost fears,
They live forever in his tales.
Dragons haunt the dreams of saints,
They haunt the dreams of sinners too,
But the dragon that haunts mankind the most
Is found even in a heart that is true.
R . Ra . Rai . Rain
Glittering in the sky
Like a leaky water faucet carried to infinity
Like the silence in the night
Torturing you to a complete fright.
Rain . Rain . Rain . Rain
Languages spoken together
All birds of a feather
Taking you down there below
With a tone of silent awe.
Rain . Rain . Rain . Rain
Makes you wander about the sky
To a chilled or naked eye
To the fields a potent substance
To us all an unliked fluvience.
Rain . Rai . Ra . R
Melancholically I say, rain causes sorrow and dismay
Rain causes drowsiness and sleep
Rain can hurt you real deep
Makes your mind go back in time
Different places, 1979
Where my images didn't shine
Where happiness was not yet mine.
R. R. R. R ....
Rain suddenly ends
In the mountains, in the plains
Happiness turns into pain
As I wish for some more R.a.i.n.
A spider slid down over my head
And spun a web around my bed
I shouted, "What the heck?
I'm no bloody insect."
That you may be, the spider said.
But your body looked so sweet
All snug in your bed.
This sent cold shivers down my spine
Until finally I realized.
It was only a Nightmare.
J. Thomas Maddox
Seething and smouldering my flesh burns with
My neck and forehead throb.
Wounded I stand and scream with
echoes in my mind:
Purge me, crush me, rake me like the barren earth.
The tides of the earth still flow:
Undulating with waves of shock
buried deep in the still.
Grain against Grain
Stone against stone
Continent against continent
I leap up to the sky and flee like an angel on wing,
until my lungs are pulled tight by the vacuum.
The silence grows and my limbs freeze numb.
Then my heart beats aloud as I reach for the stars,
and a tear like quicksilver rolls down my cheek
The hand of the sphere wrenches my body
and I plunge downward
Through the hot hoary breath of the earth.
The stars fade away and the earth gapes
Wide and devours me whole.
Like a pair of green suspenders
The Bridge stretches
Across the Savannah River.
Oh, you once wore the top hat and tails
Displaying the pride
Of a former Georgia Governor.
Now you lie
And sleep in the sun
Like an old alligator.
Still speak of you,
As "that Big! Big! Bridge."
But the local people
Recall the number of jumpers
That leap into the muddy waters below.
Why do you swallow up
Memories and lives
Spitting them out into the Atlantic Ocean?
Only the sea gulls know
And they're not telling
J. Thomas Maddox
NOW I LAY ME. . .
This work has been selected to receive the Lillian
Spencer and Frank W. Spencer Foundation A ward
for best submission to CALLIOPE.
Sleep. . . I haven't laid my head on a pillow or my body on a bed for
more than four days now, and to be perfectly honest, I don't think I ever
will again. And I don't know whom to blame. Perhaps it doesn't matter
anymore, but if I could throw the guilt on someone or something other than
my own horrendous imagination, I could somehow justify this.
I must explain. . . Less than a week ago, the songs of the birds still
vibrated through my body every morning and shook me from my sleep.
Less than a week ago I still prided myself on my ability to rise with the sun
and jump from my bed without any complaints from my joints or my limbs
or even my mind. And, when night rolled around, I never spent endless
hours tossing and turning and counting sheep. Once my head hit the pillow
my eyes closed and my dreams captured my mind. Yet, after last Sunday,
the birds failed to sing and my dreams failed to conquer the sheep.
Last Sunday morning, like every weekend morning, started out
beautifully. As always, I tiptoed out of bed, careful not to wake my wife,
Jane, and crept downstairs. Then I settled down at the kitchen table with
my orange juice in one hand ~ I never used to drink coffee - and my paper
in the other. By the time I finished the sports section, I heard the light
footsteps of my daughter. Now, I realize that every man believes that his
daughter is the most perfect little girl in the world, but Jenny is no illusion.
She has the kind of mischievious smile and kind of startling blue eyes that
make other fathers turn to stare at us when we walk down the street. You
can imagine what that does to my ego.
Anyway, by the time Jenny reached the kitchen I was already crouched
behind the door. When she entered, I swooped her up in my arms and lifted
her until her head touched the ceiling. Amid our usual giggles and chuckles
- Jenny chuckles, I giggle - we set about scrambling eggs and browning
toast and mixing more orange juice. Then, like every Sunday morning
before it, we prepared three trays and carried them up to the bedroom. By
the time we reached the top stair, Jane was already dressing for church.
Now, we aren't a particularly religious family; in fact, until last Sunday we
hadn't been ambitious enough to spend our favorite day of the week in star-
ched clothes among equally starched people. I guess that was my fault,
though. Jane grew up in a strict Episcopalean home where church was as
important as work or school or even eating and drinking. But after we mar-
ried, my "religious laziness" rubbed off on her. I'm not an atheist; Lord
knows if I were none of this would have happened, and I would be in bed,
sound asleep, right now. I'm just the "silent" type of parishoner. Church
and religion are states of mind to me, rather than traditions and customs
and outward appearances. I don't even pray out loud. My conversations
with God have always been conversations in my mind ~ as much a "diary to
myself" as a chat with the Heavenly Father. I've always liked it better that
way. Until now. Now I wish that I had paid more attention to formalities. .
But, last Sunday was one of those days when Jane felt guilty for not
making outward appearances, and my usual suggestions of picnics and
matinees weren't working. So, when Jenny said that she wanted to "visit
God too," I pulled my only three-piece suit out of the closet. And of
course, the sermon was as boring as ever; I covered my bulletin with circles
and squares and a good likeness of the minister. I envied Jenny as she cried
goodbye to her teacher -- her arms full of papers and pictures and a "round
thing with my handprint in it for Mommy to hang on the wall." I prayed,
silently of course, to spend my next Sunday in church making handprints
for Mommy's wall.
Actually, the real problem didn't arise until that night. While Jane
tucked Jenny into bed, I sat back on the loveseat, popcorn in hand, and
waited for Star Wars to appear on the screen. Jane and I had seen it five
times, but I wanted to fool around more than anything else anyway. Sud-
denly screams of "No, Mommy, I don't want to say it! No, Mommy, I
won't! No!" interrupted my fantasies. At first I thought that Jenny was
refusing to go to bed, but as her protests increased, I rushed up the stairs.
Apparently, Jane, in her new, saintly mood, had decided to teach Jenny a
bedtime prayer - a lesson that we had neglected up until then. The prayer
was simple enough - a prayer that Jane insisted every little kid learns. I'd
never heard it before, but then, as I've told you, I've always avoided tradi-
tions. And it was a cute little rhyme, at first hearing.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Jenny recited the first two lines perfectly, but when Jane prompted her
to repeat the rest, she became hysterical. I felt that if Jenny didn't want to
say the rest, we shouldn't press her, but Jane insisted that Jenny was just be-
ing stubborn. This is where I could blame everything on Jane. If she had
just let the matter drop, if she had just let it all alone, if she had not tried to
make the poor kid explain herself, I wouldn't be trying to explain myself.
But Jane has one of those "logical minds"; she must have an explanation
for everything. Unfortunately, I didn't try to stop her logic, and, unfor-
tunately, Jenny's explanation was far too logical itself. At first I had just
repeated the rhyme - mimicked it without listening to the words.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
But we had always taught Jenny to think before she spoke.
"But Mommy," she said, "that's like giving God permission to let me
die. That's like assuming you're gonna die and God might take it wrong.
Mommv. I don't want to die!"
Jane, unable to hold back her laughter, gave up. Red faced, she told
Jenny to forget all about it, have pleasant dreams, and not let the bed bugs
bite - the usual bedtime goodbyes.
Once downstairs, Jane picked up her bowl of popcorn and snuggled
close to me on the loveseat. Obviously, she didn't want to watch Star Wars
a sixth time either. But for some reason I couldn't get that little ditty, that
stupid rhyme, that damn prayer, out of my head:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
For some reason all I could do was stare at Luke Skywalker while I thought,
saw, and heard that prayer over and over in my mind. Jane either gave up
trying to penetrate my thoughts, or grew disgusted with me, because I even-
tually found myself alone, with a full bowl of popcorn in my lap, an empty
one by my side, and the National Anthem blaring at me from the tube. I've
grown to hate that song. . .
Oh say can I lay
Meeee down to sleep. . .
I flipped on the hall light and raced up the stairs; the words grew louder
all the time. When I reached my room and discovered that Jane had pulled
back my sheets and covers so that I could crawl right in, I felt silly.
Childish. Pretty ridiculous. I threw on my pajamas, slid into bed, and
resolved to put the entire night out of my mind. I switched off the light and
closed my eyes, knowing that I would be asleep in a matter of seconds.
Thinking that I would be asleep in a matter of seconds. Wishing that I
could. . .
Now I lay me down to sleep,
be asleep in a. . .
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
matter of seconds. . .
But if I die before I wake,
It was useless.
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I might have drifted off to sleep, the prayer might have bored me
enough to make me sleep, yet I began to think about what was actually run-
ning through my head. I kept reciting a prayer - a prayer to God ~ over
and over in my mind. And he was listening! I could hear Jenny's voice,
"No, Mommy, God might take it wrong. No, Mommy, I don't want to
"No, God," I cried, "please don't listen. This isn't what I want to say
-- it's just a dumb, stupid, meaningless ditty. It's just. . ."
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I knew it was stupid, it was dumb, it was childish. But I couldn't stop
mimicking that damn prayer, couldn't stop praying in my head, couldn't
stop telling God that it was all right to take my soul!
I spent that entire night too scared to go to sleep and too obsessed to be
logical (or illogical) about the entire thing.
The next morning as I dressed for work, Jane rolled her refreshed head
towards me and asked me how I had slept. I couldn't tell her. I couldn't tell
her that I spent the entire night staring into blackness and repeating the
words to a child's prayer over and over in my head. She would have laugh-
ed, or rolled her eyes, or thought that I had lost my mind. So I told her that
I had slept peacefully, then went downstairs to fix myself a cup of coffee. I
drank at least ten cups of the wretched liquid before the day ended.
But it wasn't until later that night, as Jane tucked Jen into bed, that I
began "saying" that cursed prayer again. And the more I thought about
going to sleep, the more I repeated the curse.
Sleep, now I lay me down to
Keep, I pray the Lord my soul to
Wake, and if I die before I
Take, I pray the Lord my soul to. . .
Jumbled, mixed-up, any way I though about it, I still gave the Heaven-
ly Father permission to let me die. It was then that I began to realize that I
was going to die no matter what. I could only go so long without sleep
before God, or something, took my soul anyway.
I pray the Lord my soul to take
Only so long before I would go to sleep
Now I lay me down to sleep,
And never wake up.
And if I die before I wake,
I didn't go to sleep that night. Or the next. Or the next. . . I tried
everything from sleeping pills to nursery rhymes.
Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock
And if I die
Before I wake
Hickory, dickory, DEAD!
So here I am. It's now Thursday ~ no, Friday! I think. Five days and
tour nights since that God-awful Sunday. I couldn't hide my terrors from
Jane. When I first told her my predicament she did exactly what I expected.
She laughed, then she rolled her eyes, then she told me I was crazy. Finally,
I began saying the phrases out loud,
Now I lay me down
as we were lying in our bed,
to sleep. I pray the Lord
or between huge gulps of coffee.
my soul to keep. And if I die
Before long I was kneeling at the side of my bed with my hands clasped -my
eyes staring toward the Heavens!
before I wake. I pray the Lord
So Jane packed her bags and took Jenny to a motel.
my soul to take.
So now here I sit, alone, counting the days by the number of times the
National Anthem plays on the tube. My house, which had always been the
safest, most comfortable place in the world, no longer seems like my house.
It had been my haven, my resort, my escape from the pressures of the out-
side world. The ultimate dream — right from its white picket fence, to its
yellow kitchen curtains, to its velvety red carpet. The walls always vibrated
with Jenny's soft chuckles, and the air always smelled of roast beef or fresh
bread or apple pie. Oh, but not now. Now that Jane and Jenny are gone,
the fence, with its spiked, ivory pickets, confronts me when I step inside the
gate -- a row of white teeth inviting me to pass through them into the belly
of their owner. The belly reeks of the yellow bile which covers its openings,
and I must force myself to sit upon the blood-red surface of its interior. No
longer does laughter fill the halls and vibrate in my ears. Only the
methodical words of that damn prayer bounce off the ceiling and the floor
and echo in my soul.
Now I lay me . . .
It's like some horrible nightmare ~ a nightmare that I can never wake up
from because I never went to sleep in the first place.
Yes, I am probably blowing this whole affair out of proportion. Yet
my mind no longer knows the meaning of proportion. Like the endless
echoing in the air, I'm doomed to stay within this belly, continually bounc-
ing off the blood-red walls while my mind says to me and to God and to
anyone who will listen. . .
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray dear Lord just let me sleep
And if I die before I sleep
I pray, I pray, I pray. . .sleep. . .
™^^"^^^^^^~ Calliope, 35
Drawing by Mary Howard
Chanteur of the false night,
Why does my song
Master of enchanting sounds,
Are your wings made of magic,
Your song a sorcerer's speech?
Oh, what a wretch am I.
I dare not sing nor fly.
The prayers for voice and lifting wing
Have not been answered
I am but a poor man
With a heart of endless scars.
Oh, Sparrow, come and sing
I can crawl and walk and run.
I dare not leave the ground.
I fly, Bird, only when I sleep.
Gift of nature, how I wish I were
SHADES OF GRAY
Tennessee William's Amanda is very human in The Glass Menagerie.
That is, she is inconsistent: she is neither all good nor all bad, but a mixture
of both. She is thoughtfully tender as well as unintentionally cruel. There is
much to admire about Amanda while there is a lot laugh at also. She is ad-
mirable in her tenderness and love for her children. Her love for Tom and
Laura can arouse our pity because of her inability to understand where or
how she has failed them. On the other hand, she is ridiculous and laughable
in her Southern-belle mannerisms and her high expectations for her
children. Amanda is a paradox.
Amanda's Southern-belle mannerisms and her high expectations for
Tom and Laura are both laughable and ridiculous. Amanda lives in
another time period - the Old South, with all its grandeur. The glorious
clothes, the great balls, and the gracious manners were all part of the Old
South, and Amanda remembers only the good times. To her, everything
was better then. One of Amanda's fantasies about her earlier life occurs
one night at the table after dinner when she tells Laura to "be the lady this
time"(scene I, pg. 971). Amanda wants Laura to sit and enjoy her coffee
while she is waiting for her gentleman callers. In the meantime, says Aman-
da, "I'll be the darky, "(scene I, pg. 971) and clean up the table and dishes.
Because Amanda does not want to accept her life the way it is, she fan-
tasizes about the past constantly.
If Amanda herself cannot accept her life the way it is and live in the
present, how can Tom and Laura? They cannot; therefore, they cannot live
up to her high expectations either. When they see Amanda escape her pro-
blems by going back to her youthful days, they follow her example, and
each chooses a safe time period for themselves. Tom leaps to the future,
thinking of the adventure of being a merchant marine and eventually
becoming a well-known poet. Laura, because she is crippled, cannot cope
with business school at the present time, nor can she see a marriage in the
future. Laura selects a never-never time: neither past, present, or future,
but a world of glass and reflections. Trapped in the different times, each
falls victim to illusions and fantasies.
Amanda can arouse our pity because of her inability to understand
where or how she has failed her children. She is the instrument in bringing
Laura and Tom to their desperate situations. She cripples them
psychologically and inhibits their own quest for maturity and self-
Since her husband's desertion, Amanda has depended on Tom heavily
for the support of the family and she wants him to continue to work, at least
until she can get Laura settled. When looking at Laura's timid personality,
Tom feels he could be working forever at the shoe factory. He has secretly
applied to the Merchant Marine, and when Tom's acceptance letter arrives,
Amanda finds it. Amanda and Tom argue, and Amanda stresses what she
hoped, she lovingly comforts Laura. Amanda has an aura of "dignity and
tragic beauty"(scene VII, pg. 1010) in the final scene.
expects of him: "[when] Laura has... married, [with] a home of her own,
[and is] independent... you'll be free to go... whichever way the wind blows!
But until that time... Find... some nice young [gentleman caller]... for
Sister"(scene IV, pg. 983). On Tom's young shoulders, Amanda has placed
the burdensome responsibility of the family left by the father. She has not
let Tom discover himself or what he wants in life. By inhibiting him this
way, she has halted his growth.
With Laura, Amanda has done the same thing in a different way.
Amanda wants Laura to have the same kind of life that she did as a young
girl, the life of a Southern belle who has "seventeen! -- gentleman
callers! "(scene I, pg. 971). With her unreal expectations, Amanda projects
her "Blue Mountain" image on Laura instead of letting Laura develop in
her own way and time. If Amanda had not pushed Laura so hard into
becoming something that she was not, Laura would not have been so self-
conscious of her failings; she might have had more of a chance at a normal
life. Since Laura cannot live up to her mother's expectations, she
withdraws herself into a world of glass that is only a reflection of the real
Amanda is admirable in her tenderness and love for her children,
especially Laura. Amanda (like most mothers) loves her children, and this
is shown throughout the play. Laura's future is Amanda's top priority and
concern. She wants Laura to go to business school so that Laura can sup-
port herself. When Amanda finds that Laura has dropped out of the
school, Amanda reverts to plan B: marriage. Amanda will be totally happy
only if she can get Laura settled. She enlists Tom's help for this plan.
Amanda wants Tom to bring home a gentleman caller for Laura. When
Tom brings home Jim and the visit does not go as well as Amanda had
Likewise, with Tom, Amanda's concern is shown in the way she
mothers him: "don't smoke too much, don't become a drunkard, and
don't drink hot coffee." Amanda cautions Tom, "that the future becomes
the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if
you don't plan for it!"(scene V, pg. 987). She tells him that with a little
more "get up," he could have "a fairly responsible job" like Jim does
(scene V, pg. 987). Amanda would like Tom to become a young business
executive, but she also lets Tom know over and over again how much they
depend on him; he is the man of the family, and she is proud of his efforts.
Amanda has a positive attitude about herself nearly all the time, and
even during the most trying times she has the attitude of "disappointed but
not discouraged." She depends on Tom and his job a lot, but she does not
just sit home herself. She has a job selling magazines and "working at
Famous and Barr" (scene II, pg. 972). Even when Tom and Amanda have
had an argument and she makes the statement, "My devotion has made me
a witch and so I make myself hateful to my children! " she comes back with,
"Try and you will succeed! "(scene IV, pg. 981).
So while Amanda is ridiculous, she is also respectable. We can identify
with her because of her mixed nature of both good and bad qualities. Her
tenderness and love for her children are laudable while her illusions about
the "Old South" and her expectations for Tom and Laura can awaken our
pity for her. Amanda is laughable and ridiculous as we all are, and we can
equate ourselves with her in our own efforts to deal with life and its
numerous problems. She is truly a paradox as all humans are. We are
neither all good nor all bad, neither all black nor all white, but shades of
Citations are found in David Bergman and Daniel Mark Epstein's
HeathGuide to Literature (Lexington, Mass.: D.C Heath and Co., 1984).
POMP AND PAGEANTRY
Half a fortnight ere St. Patrick's Day,
Fair leprechauns come out for their foreplay.
Twenty smiling beauties primp and pace -
Tangled 'midst hair curlers, lipstick, lace.
The title, "Miss St. Patrick's Day," they crave:
To ride a float through drunken crowds, and wave.
A crowd has gathered 'round the stage below;
Music thunders, wine and whiskey flow.
Upstairs the ladies polish glassy lips,
Walk the floor to prime their swaying hips.
The mirrors on the wall claim all attention,
Save one young woman's: waiting without tension
She twists one curl around one slender finger;
On her the eyes of all the others linger.
The prize the previous year she nearly grasped,
But in the final moments her charm lapsed.
The luck of Erin smiled upon a redhead -
And only golden tresses fell from her head.
With vengeance she prepared to try again;
The year she spent in buffing silky skin.
Weeks of hunger ate away a pound:
Fine bones preferred she over cheeks so round.
And now the startling beauty she was born to,
Splendor of wild roses under soft dew
Has been transformed by her to dolly porcelain;
Flames of fury glow beneath her glass-skin.
But confidence and ease are all her form breathes:
Her graceful strut conceals the way her mind seethes.
She's practiced, prayed, and polished all her charms:
She sparkles, like the rhinestones on her arms.
Across the room a girl looks on in shyness,
Oblivious to the veteran's secret slyness.
She combs her copper curls with quivering hands •-
Sparkling rings of auburn, she commands
Each to its place; they cover her fair shoulders.
In her eyes two emerald fires smoulder
A gown of shamrock green completes the picture:
An Irish lass, but not the judges' pick, sure!
A pretty girl she is, but no great beauty --
Blondie feels the nearness of her booty.
The show begins; the girls all smile and shimmer.
The audience yowls like cats awaiting dinner.
Whistles, shouts, name-calling, lude suggestions,
They rival schoolboys, fresh-free from suppression.
Here inside the bar - no kids allowed --
Second Childhood rules this lively crowd.
As each fair lady glides across the stage,
Men reach and grab like monkeys through a cage.
The golden beauty, ready for the crowd,
Swaggers across, smiles, assured and proud.
Gratification envelopes her skin;
She revels in the tangle and the din.
Smiling promises flow from her blue eyes,
Capturing hearts with sweet, unspoken lies.
The fair-skinned lass follows, stepping lightly;
Behind her smile, she grits her teeth so tightly.
And in the end the red hair wins again --
An answering crimson colors the veteran's skin.
Her rage she holds until she is alone;
The grace which carried her to stage is gone.
She stumbles upstairs, blind with pain or ire,
A wiser woman certainly would retire,
But this one spends her days in spas and salons,
Eagle-proud, she flexes polished talons.
Making plans for show again next spring,
She preens each feather, smooths each ruffled wing.
And those who cheered her on to harsh defeat
Find the morning after not so sweet.
They work and wait for night to take them back --
The dog's hair calls them downtown in a pack
To wake from nightmares of sobriety
Into their reeling world of revelry.
TIME IS THE ESSENCE OF LIFE
Time is for us mortals the essence of life. We can be in control of our
lives and therefore in control of our time, or we can be committed to an
ideal or belief which we feel merits our time, or we may be people who waste
time. These are three alternatives for the use of time during our lives. We
must consider time a precious resource. Once it is gone, it is gone forever
and will never come again. In the poem, "Ulysses," we see a conqueror
king who is undoubtedly in complete control of his own life and regrets the
day he became idle because of his age. This poem is about his desire to
"drink life to the lees"(1.7, p. 541). He wants to pursue, to continue his
adventures. In the poem, "After Apple Picking," we see a once hard work-
ing man, tired and exhausted. He has spent most of his life laboring for "a
great harvest I myself desired"(l .29, p. 837). The desire for being a lover is
present in Prufrock, but because of fear and lack of purpose, his time is
meaningless. By comparing "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" to
"The Apple Picker" and "Ulysses," we should find evidence of three dif-
ferent methods of using the irreplaceable commodity of time.
Ulysses is untouched by time or age, and the apple picker is tired and
ready to give up his work, but Prufrock's life represents an example of the
poorest use of time. He is a procrastinator. Prufrock is not bold enough to
ask a real person to go with him on a journey to an unknown place, so he
has an imaginary lover come along with him. We soon begin to understand
this situation as the hell of Prufrock's mind. It is inhabited by shallow,
superficial people who have no depth, reminding us of the characters in
Alice in Wonderland. Unlike the rabbit who constantly cries, "I'm late,
I'm late for a very important date," Prufrock's theme is, "there will be
time, there will be time"(l .26, p. 792). He wonders: should he or should he
not dare to ask? Since the title of the poem is "The Love Song of J. Alfred
Prufrock," we surmise that he is asking for his lover's affections. He is
never able to fully put his desire into thought patterns. Once again he asks,
"and should I then presume?/And how should I begin[?]"(1.68, p. 793).
Prufrock kids himself into believing "there will be time"(1.23, p. 792) for
all the trivialities of his tedious life. He changes his face or personality to
please each person he meets. He digresses into indecision even in the
smallest matters, for he feels he is not important. He spends his time in a
fantasy world and when confronted by life he will surely drown in a sea of
his own making. Contrasting the life of Ulysses with that of Prufrock, we
find two almost opposite extremes. There are no limitations of time with
Ulysses. He cannot rest from adventure even in his old age. He talks of
sailing again with his mariners who have shared much of his life, and who
are now also old. Like Prufrock and Ulysses, the apple picker is old and
very tired. It is winter, and he has seen his face reflected in the ice from the
drinking trough. The old, tired man is sleepy, and he lets the ice fall and
break. He welcomes the rest, and dreams of aooles which are magnified.
They are huge apples which appear and disappear much as the people of his
life do. Picking these apples makes him weary of "the great harvest I
myself [desire]"(1.27, 28, 29, p. 837).
The characters have definite dislikes and feelings regarding death, and
for Prufrock the feelings fall under one heading -- fear. His fear of being
ridiculed is stifling. He allows it to cut away his life, and that empty shell of
a man fears death as much as life. His allusions to John the Baptist and
Lazarus indicate the irony of Prufrock's situation as he compares himself
with these holy men who were totally dedicated to God, and who were will-
ing to die for Him. Prufrock has nothing for which to live or die. Ulysses
would certainly disagree with Prufrock's philosophy as he can think of
nothing worse than to pause, or make an end. He compares his inactivity to
a sword. Not wanting to rust, but to shine in use, he realizes that to breathe
alone is no indication of life. He thinks it vile to have rested for three days
while ignoring his desire to follow knowledge. To his mariners Ulysses says,
"You and I are old;/... death closes all. Some work of noble note may yet
be done" (1149-51, 52). The last line reflects the truth as seen by Ulysses.
Time never ceases for him as he invites his friends, saying, "Tis not too late
to seek a newer world"(157, p. 543). The apple picker is done with his
work. He is through picking apples although there are indications of work
to be done: an unfilled barrel, two or three unpicked apples on a bough.
He regrets those apples which he missed or let fall for they went to the cider-
apple heap "as of no worth" (1 .38, p. 838). This makes us think of the ap-
ples lost as those opportunities missed in life, not missed because of pro-
crastination as with Prufrock, but missed because there is too much for one
man to do. This will trouble the apple picker. He realizes his human limita-
tions as he contemplates the sleep which may be very long, another way of
speaking of his death.
The purpose in life for each of the three men is reflected by the direc-
tion in which he travels. Prufrock wants desperately to appear
sophisticated. He wears all the right colors and still says, "there will be time
to turn back and descend the stair"(1.39, p. 792). This is a clear indication
of his lack of confidence in himself. He quickly decides that he should have
been "a pair of ragged claws/scuttling across the floor of silent seas"(1.73,
74). This is a comparison similar to Prufrock's direction, which is
backward like a crab. Not only does Prufrock fantasize the asking of ques-
tions, but he also interprets the answers of his lover. Suppose she says,
"that is not what I meant at all"(1.97, 98). This will certainly crush
Prufrock's desire to appear sophisticated, and can be cited as his purpose in
life. The purpose of Ulysses is to use his time to seek knowledge. He views
all "experience as an arch... whose margin fades forever and ever when I
move"(1.21, p. 542). This has the effect of pointing Ulysses in a forward
direction. The apple picker in the Robert Frost poem gives us a picture of
an orchard, well-picked, and a two pointed ladder reaching toward heaven.
His direction is upward. Time is worn into his instep from the pressure of a
ladder round. He smells the scent of apples and hears the rumbling sound
as the loads come in. His purpose in life is to serve others and God by using
his time to the fullest.
We have looked at three alternatives for time utilization. We are not
all endowed with the resources of Ulysses, but we do share the same number
of hours in each day, along with Prufrock and the apple picker. Most of us
will probably spend our lives much like the apple picker. We may
sometimes have bad experiences like Prufrock, or really exciting times as in
the poem, "Ulysses." However we choose to live our lives, or use our time,
let us remember that time is a resource and it cannot be renewed. Time is
the essence of life.
Citations are found in David Bergman and Daniel Mark Epstein's Heath
Guide to Literature (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Co., 1984).
Tall graceful grass
You tickle the skies
You beat out an ancient
rhythm with the wind
You dance without ever moving
Your song can be heard in the
Knocking of tropic evening breezes
The pounding of typhoon winds.
You drink up the rams
Shelter, clothe, and feed
Teacher of Confucius
How shallow man stands in your shadow.
At the end of "The Blue Hotel" by Stephen Crane, one of the main
characters, the Easterner, states that "every sin is the result of collabora-
tion"^. 252). This statement is incorrect because of the use of such an ab-
solute word as every and because of the Swede's exclusion from this col-
laboration. Such works as "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, "King of the
Bingo Game" by Ralph Ellison, as well as the previously mentioned short
story support the statement that "[some] sins [are] the [results] of col-
laboration." However, neither this statement nor the first statement on sin
frees the victims from responsibility concerning their own downfalls.
The Easterner makes his assumptive statement on sin and collaboration
after admitting that he had seen Johnny cheat the Swede. The Easterner
feels that if he would have revealed what he saw that evening and defended
the Swede, then the Swede would not have been killed that night.
There are several definite problems in the conclusion drawn by the
Easterner. The first problem exists in the number of men that the Easterner
holds responsible. The Easterner is very wrong in his allotment of the
liability in the Swede's death. Not only does the Easterner blame himself
and the other men at the Palace Hotel on the night of the Swede's death, but
he also blames them more than the gambler who actually killed the Swede:
[The gambler] isn't even a noun, He is a kind of
adverb. ...in this case it seems to be... five men -- [the
Easterner, the cowboy], Johnny, old Scully; and that
fool of an unfortunate gambler came merely as a
culmination, the apex of a human movement, and
[he] gets all the punishment (p. 252).
The main problem with this statement exists in the omission of the per-
son who was most responsible for the death of the Swede, the Swede
himself. The Swede was responsible for his actions leading up to his death.
Even if the Easterner would have helped the Swede by confessing to have
seen Johnny cheat, the Swede probably would have ended up dead on the
barroom floor anyway. The Easterner's confession or lack of confession
probably would not have affected the Swede's "mightier than God" at-
titude and he probably would have reacted the same way. The support of
the Easterner would probably have had the same effect on the Swede as did
the drink of liquor that he had before the fight.
The assertion that the Easterner makes about his responsibility in the
death of the Swede is incorrect. The Easterner is being too harsh on himself
and those involved. The Easterner did what he thought was the correct
thing to do at that time, and he did not know that the evening would end the
way it did. The distribution of responsibility and guilt is absurd because
there is no way that they could have known that the Swede would be killed
after leaving the Palace Hotel that night.
The Easterner was correct in one aspect, however. The gambler was
not as guilty in the death of the Swede as someone else was. If one character
had to be labelled the victim, it would be the gambler. He was directly vic-
timized by the loud-talking Swede. The Swede himself is made to look like
as entirely innocent victim. This is completely incorrect. The Swede was
more responsible than anyone for his own death.
In "The Lottery," another protagonist is very responsible for her own
death - Mrs. Jessie Hutchinson. The reason that Mrs. Hutchinson can be
held so responsible exists in her failure to protest the "game" before it
started. She only began to protest after she had won, and she then protested
for all the wrong reasons: "You didn't give him time enough to take any
paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!" Her action shows her lack of
thought and her willingness to conform with what everyone else does even if
it is wrong, as is the lottery. Had Mrs. Hutchinson not drawn the black dot,
she probably would have been at the front of the crowd and holding the
Even though the woman is very wrong for not taking a stand against
the lottery beforehand, the peruser must still feel some pity for this
"chosen" woman. She doesn't stand up against her community because the
community has always resisted change. The result of this lack of change is
an epidemic of thoughtlessness. Even the box that the lottery slips are
drawn from is old and "splintered badly along one side to show the original
wood color, ...but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was
represented by the black box"(p. 414). The woman's lack of thought, as
well as everyone else's lack of thought, is caused by the collaboration of at-
titudes of all the people in the community. All of the people in the com-
munity victimize themselves by letting the lottery continue.
A very different example of collaboration and its effect on sin lies in
the short story by Ralph Ellison, "King of the Bingo Game." The pro-
tagonist in this story is clearly a victim because he honestly tries to help
himself. Even though he does attempt to help himself, he fails because of
the collaboration of society against his race.
The protagonist tries to help himself by moving out of the rural South
to the "opportunity- filled" North. The "King" realizes that his attempt to
escape from his doom that followed him in the South is failing. His wife,
Laura, is dying and he can not afford a doctor. It is also very obvious that
he hasn't eaten in a long time: "I'm just broke, 'cause I got no birth cer-
tificate to get a job, and Laura 'bout to die 'cause we got no money for a
doctor"(p. 406). This quote also shows that he has tried to get a job and
can not because he has no birth certificate. It is as if the world is col-
laborating against him. Because of this collaboration, the man is forced to
play a game of chance to try and win money. The protagonist is truly vic-
The King dreams of
walking along a railroad trestle down South, and
seeing the train coming, and running back as fast as
he could go, and hearing the whistle blowing, and
getting off of the trestle to solid ground just in time,
with the earth trembling beneath his feet, and feeling
relieved as he ran down the cinder-strewn embank-
ment onto the highway, and looking back and seeing
with terror that the train had left the tracks and was
following him right down the middle of the street,
and all the white people laughing as he ran scream-
ing.... (p. 407).
This dream shows how the protagonist has attempted futilely to free himself
from the dangers of being black and poor. He realizes that his cause has
followed him even where he thought that it would not, just as the train
followed him off the track.
The "King" makes another important realization after he wins the
bingo game, and he is on the stage. He realizes
that his whole life [had been] determined by the
bingo wheel; not only that which would happen now
that he was at last before it, but all that had gone
before, since his birth, and his mother's birth, and
the birth of his father. (p. 408)
The protagonist realizes that he has always been playing the "game of life,"
as had his mother and father before him, and the odds of winning are
always very bad. Ironically, at the end of the story, the wheel lands on the
winning number, but again, as always, he loses.
In all three stories, at least one character is definitely victimized - if not
by one person, as in "The Blue Hotel," then by many, as in "The Lottery"
and "King of the Bingo Game." In the first two stories, the protagonist
was directly responsible for his or her own downfall. In the last story, this is
not the case. Each story exhibits the results of collaboration or victimiza-
tion ~ or both.
Citations are found in James H. Pickering and Jeffrey D. Hoeper's
Literature (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1982).
SHAPES TO FILL A LACK
NOT JUST ANOTHER ORDINARY
Anna Crowe Dewart
So, he was dead. He'd done it: drunk and smoked himself into the Ely-
sian Fields. I hoped he was happy; I wasn't. I felt cheated. I'd waited for
years, hoping to catch up with him again and share all that had happened in
the twenty-five years since he had been my mentor. There have been others:
many, especially if one considers humanity as a whole; very few that have
been truly unique. Henry Lindstrom had been both unique and the first.
It was his car that was the first sign I noticed of his presence. I'd never
seen anything like it. It was tiny, a dull olive-drab color, and a peculiar
shape. I peered down into it and couldn't believe my eyes - it was strewn
with crumpled Lucky Strike packages - did anyone smoke that much? I
walked all around it, wondering who in the world it could belong to, then
rushed off to class and forgot all about it.
Later in the year I passed him in the hall. Our eyes met. He gave me a
big wink like some senior devil might to his apprentice. I was appalled.
"Who is that man," I asked, turning to my friend. "I mean, I know he's a
teacher and all that, but . . .?" She replied, "Oh, that's Mr. Lindstrom.
He's new this year; teaches Senior English Honors ~ weird." The rest of
that year I would look for him in the halls, then do my best to ignore him if
I saw him.
One day after school, toward the end of the school year, I was going to
meet my mother. There he was, loping in his slouching manner right down
the hall toward me. I panicked. This was ridiculous. I didn't even know
the man. But when out of my terror I heard him stop and ask me who I
was, what grade I was in, I found myself quite calmly looking straight into
his blue eyes and saying, "I'm Mrs. Young's daughter, Molly. I'm a
sophomore but hope to skip next year. I only have two junior credits to
take and can do them over the summer by correspondence from the Univer-
sity." Smiling, eyes friendly, but deadly serious, he said, "I'm Mr. Lind-
strom, teach Senior English. Maybe I'll see you next year." He turned
abruptly and strode off down the hall.
I couldn't wait for school to start the next fall. I had made English
Honors. Not only that, I was in his class. Then, there I was, sitting, trying
to make small talk with my friends, rapping my pencil on the desk. Where
He entered the room with no salutation, in mid-sentence, his compell-
ing, nicotine ridden actor's voice in staccatto ~ ". . . and I don't care, don't
want mentioned within this room, will not discuss with any one of you,
what a noun, verb, subject, pronoun, dangling participle, prepositional
phrase, ad-nauseum, is, or how they are used. If you didn't know English
grammar you wouldn't be here; if you think you've forgotten during the
summer, you may be excused ~ now. Please open your books to page 133.
This is a poem by an anonymous, Sixteenth Century writer ~ probably a
soldier." I was spellbound; at last this intense curiosity was to find some
sort of gratification.
I couldn't work hard enough, couldn't wait to get to class, couldn't
wait to get my papers back. It was a sweet hurting anxiety of creative ef-
fort, again and again. He chided, he paced back and forth across the
classroom; he revealed it all. He knew the origin and background of the
words; their change in usage, how, when, why they had become accepted or
used pejoratively. That was what the energy was about - the sharing of
knowledge, stretching, growing!
Yes, I'd grown fond of that fine dark hair, could hardly bear the inten-
sity of his eyes. When he didn't wear his usual uniform of grey slacks, white
shirt and soft, worn, burgundy corduroy jacket ~ its sleeves, of necessity,
patched at the elbows -- I was crushed. And how he got away with it in a
predominately Mormon school, I'll never know - but there, always roun-
ding a hip pocket of his trousers, was his wine flask (endearing, daring
I was in love, I admit it, but it wasn't the man by himself. It was the
towering presence of knowledge carried in such a strong but slight man who
stood just taller than myself. It was his manner of pouring it all out as if we
might all die at any moment ~ all the words with their reflective beauty and
capacity for "telling" lost, with no ears to hear, no hearts to interpret.
It was also a life-style. One day when I didn't have my car, I asked for
a ride into town. He invited me into his house to meet his wife and young
son. I accepted with fear and elation. He called, as we walked in the door,
"Lucy, Beasley, I've brought someone to meet you." The arome of baking
bread permeated the spotless, Spartan, book-lined living room. A huge
desk, pressed up against a window, carried small stacks of more books,
papers, a lamp with its shade covered with jotted notes pinned to it, an
ashtray with cigarette ends spilling out over its sides; it gave a contrasting
impressions of being respectfully and lovingly untouched when the rest of
the room was cleaned.
He led me on into the kitchen and there, bent over, taking fresh
homemade crescent rolls from the over, was his wife. When she stood up
and turned toward us I was struck by the simplicity of her un-made-up
beauty, young, bright in her slight, refined form. "Lucy -- Molly, Molly
-Lucy," he introduced us. Gesturing toward a sturdy, shining baby boy
playing on the clean linoleum floor, "Beasley Bones, euphonism for Beastly
Bones ~ he was huge and hard for her to have."
In the corner of the kitchen was a wooden booth, built cafe-style into a
nook, with a huge jug of red wine sitting on the floor beneath one seat.
"Have a seat. Would you like a glass of wine?" Then he corrected himself
saying, "Ah, no, not 'til you've graduated, my young friend," and
laughing to Lucy, continued, "I've robbed one cradle already, no need to
corrupt another." The newness of it all; a whole new atmosphere - travel
posters and favorite pictures tacked to the wall, potted plants flowering in-
the window, books everywhere, classical music playing - I had come home.
I rode home with him many times that year; soaking it all in, learning
about the "Northeast," Dartmouth, where he had taught and courted
Lucy, -- stories of his trudging across the snow-laden campus to her apart-
ment to lie before a fire and listen to Gregorian Chants. He had studied in
England. He had acted off Broadway. He knew Susan Strasbourg. It was
overwhelming and something in me was starved. I couldn't get enough.
Like some kind of echo of Socrates, he made me a disciple, an apprentice in
living, a conspirator in learning.
When summer came I would spend whole days with them, but
treasured most are the evenings on the screened-in porch, finally drinking
my first glasses of wine, occasionally daring to smoke a cigarette. Our only
light was a flickering candle stuck in a favorite wine bottle. I listened to him
talk of things to come in my life as if he were telling me into being. He was
relentless in his demands to make me think, seek the right questions, express
my own impressions, ideas, opinions, and build my own sense of values.
One evening, just a week before I was to leave for college, he walked
me to my car. He ushered me in and after he had very carefully shut the
door, he bent over, reached in and cradled the back of my head firmly and
gently in his hand - as we looked into one another we became one being.
He didn't kiss me; it was the only time we ever touched. It was as if that ex-
quisite burning desire - in him, to teach, in me, to learn ~ was held there in
a moment completely outside time to exist forever.
Have you had your fill of rice today?
How many mouths must you feed?
First born daughter child
Just practice for first child
Ancient Ancestral altar made
Red with neon light
Where the spirits of my spirits
Rest away from the color T.V.
Grandmother quick come out from
Rice fields I want a computer
You speak English-everyone knows
English is the yellow brick road to.. .is Oz in Asia?
Don't chew too many beetle nuts
They stain your teeth
American candy is too sweet
No, I don't believe in your Jesus
Buddah is much wiser
It's never mind - tigers, tigers, horses, horses
We all spring from the middle kingdom
Japan has a Magic Kingdom.
Mr. Smith was a big man in his early sixties. He was over six feet tall
and weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. His pleasant, even features
were accented by smile wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. He would lie
on his side, propped on one elbow, his head supported by a massive hand.
Jet black hair, speckled only slightly with gray, covered his head. Horn-
rimmed glasses framed benevolent dark brown eyes that were full of humor.
He spoke with a fine resonant voice that was often broken with rich
laughter at his own jokes. As I tended to my nurse's aide duties in his
hospital room, he told me he had been a railroad man for thirty years. We
talked of families, gardens, and travel.
His wife and at least one of his four children were with him constantly.
More ailing patriarch now than husband and father, he displayed a quiet
strength that made him a precious part of their lives. They attended his
needs, giving all they could, nurturing him as he had nurtured them.
Mr. Smith had been a diabetic for many years. He had been admitted
for treatment when his diabetes had become uncontrollable. Weakened by
this, he found it difficult to breathe when he exerted himself. Despite his
weakness, his family was optimistic. Tests would be done, the diabetes cur-
tailed, and all would be well. I left the floor a few days after meeting him
with the same optimism, convinced that Mr. Smith and I would never meet
Two months later, I assumed a permanent position on the onocology
floor of St. Joseph's Hospital. It was a difficult adjustment. Cancer en-
compasses the entire spectrum of human physiology and, as a nursing stu-
dent, I became involved intellectually. While I was impressed with my abili-
ty to apply my newly learned knowledge of anatomy, I was shocked by the
impotence of the medical profession in its fight against cancer.
This was a hectic floor as nurses and aides raced to ' 'maintain" their
patients. Few are cured. Machines fill the hospital rooms. Infusion pumps
click rhythmically as they measure out liquid nourishment in one room and
toxic chemotheraputic drugs in another. Their alarms go off every ten of
fifteen minutes, beckoning a nurse to read the computerized messages that
flash across the screens in yellow, blue or red. Respiratory therapists haul
in breathing equipment in an effort to clear congested lungs. Oxygen bub-
bles through plastic bottles of water at the head of every bed. Tubes fill
natural and unnatural orifices perpetually draining and filling, draining and
It is a battlefield with few survivors. While the silent parasite ravages
its victim, those who wait also suffer. The battle may be long or short, but
the odds are set and the nurse knows from the first skirmish who the victor
will probably be.
The hall is hushed when a patient is dying. The idle chatter in the
nurse's station and lounge stops. Only the slight squeak of rubber soles on
the linoleum tiles breaks the quiet. It would seem that the very air is
suspended as if any movement would disturb the vacillating life that is being
drawn towards death. Often two or three die within hours of each other.
Time becomes a border around a great empty space.
In September of that year Mr. Smith became my patient again. It had
been five months since I had seen him. His diagnosis was lung cancer.
Mr. Smith was in the terminal stages of his disease. The man who
greeted me now had undergone a terrible metamorphosis. Deep creases had
replaced the smile lines around his eyes and mouth. His features were
sunken; his face had thinned. His tanned skin had taken on a yellow pallor;
the sad, painful figure, still on one side, struggled for breath. Gone was his
fine, resonant voice; he could barely speak above a whisper.
While I cared for him I would take his hand and lean down close to his
face to hear what he was saying. He would rasp out some well-chosen com-
ment or request. Eventually even this became too much of an effort and he
was silent. He was totally dependent on us to anticipate his every need.
Once again his family gathered at his bedside. They slept in chairs or
on the floor beside him and at least one of them was always with him. They
feared the loss of him and physically and emotionally clung to him as if this
could prevent his ultimate departure. I had a great affection for this gentle
and once strong man; it saddened me to see this change in him.
There was very little any of us could do for Mr. Smith. He was given
intravenous fluids in an attempt to stabilize his electrolyte and fluid
balance, his pain medication was adjusted, and he was discharges after
about three weeks. I felt that this would be our last meeting. But just
before Thanksgiving, he returned. The final struggle had begun. Now Mr.
Smith's silence was broken only by the bubbling "death rattles" that em-
phasized his every breath. His eyes were wide with terror. He was drown-
ing in his own fluids.
Days went by and Mr. Smith succumbed and waited. We all waited.
The day before Thanksgiving, the rales stopped and his respiration became
slows, shallow and quiet, with intermittent periods of apnea. The hand I
held now was cold, damp and flaccid. His eyes showed no pain, no more
terror. He was ready.
Early one afternoon his son came to the nurse's station. "My father is
damp. I'd like for someone to change his bed and gown." he said.
The charge nurse moved close to him. "Is he very uncomfortable?"
she asked. "I'd rather not move him any more than we have to."
"He's wet," the son answered. "I don't want him to be cold." He left
The charge nurse looked at me. "Make the family leave the room
when you change him," she said.
I called for the male attendant. The orderly that night was a rough
man, outwardly devoid of compassion. His total dislike of his work and the
resentment he felt towards this obligation were directed towards his patients
and workmates equally. But I would need his strength to change Mr.
When the orderly arrived I gathered clean sheets and a clean gown and
we walked to the room together. We rolled Mr. Smith onto his right side as
I stripped off the old sheets and replaced them with clean ones. He was
swollen with fluids that his body could not release, and he had little stength
to maneuver his large cumbersome limbs. We had watched as one body
system after another had shut down. Only his skin worked now and in an
effort to compensate it poured out liters of cold perspiration. The
bedclothes would not be dry for long.
When I had tucked in the new sheets, we turned Mr. Smith onto his left
side towards me and the orderly pulled the sheets from underneath him.
His gaze settled on my face. His eyes were fixed, all emotion, all evidence
of his pain, gone from them. Suddenly, his respirations slowed and stop-
"Please, Mr. Smith," I prayed, "please don't go on me now!" I look-
ed at my watch, counting, five seconds, ten seconds. "Wait!" I shouted to
The orderly stopped and looked up from his work. Mr. Smith's
breathing began again, almost as if I had called him back. The orderly
continued. Minutes passed and again Mr. Smith's breathing stopped.
"Mr. Smith!" I called. Another fifteen seconds had passed. He sighed
and began to breathe. Wearily, he looked up at me. I longed for the order-
ly to finish with the mounds of pads and drawsheets.
When Mr. Smith's respirations stopped for the third time my panic
became even more desperate. "Stop!" I yelled. "Forget about finishing,
let's get his head up!" We moved Mr. Smith onto his back and put his head
up on pillows and his breathing returned. I straigthened the bottom sheets.
"You can leave now," I told the orderly. "I'll finish him." Relieved,
the orderly left the room. I changed the soaked gown and topsheets alone.
The room was silent except for the quiet struggling sounds of Mr. Smith's
breathing and the weak bubbling of the oxygen above his head. I hung on
each breath as I finished the bed.
When everything was in place, I took his hand. "Mr. Smith," I asked,
"are you comfortable now?" The words were empty and stupid and I
realized that as soon as I blurted them. They served to emphasize how truly
helpless we both were.
The fragility of life, all life, my life, was so cruelly obvious at that mo-
ment. The air was heavy and oppresive with the reality of death nd the im-
permanence of every object in that room, and even the room itself.
I left the room and turned down the empty hall towards the nurse's sta-
tion. I felt relief that I would not be present when Mr. Smith's time came.
Halfway down the hall I turned and impulsively returned to his room. I
stood at the door looking in at him and, without touching him, I knew that
he was dead.
I shut the door and walked over to the bed. His eyes were closed. It
almost seemed that he had waited to die privately. I took his hand in mine;
there was no more muscle tonicity, and his hand was stiff yet yeilding. The
large hands were gray, the nailbeds blue. I felt for a pulse first in his wrist
and then with my stethoscope just under his heart. There was no pulse nor
were there breath sounds. I rang the buzzer for the nurse.
"May I help you?" came the voice through the intercom.
"Send a nurse down here, please," I answered.
The charge nurse appeared immediately and we examined the body
together. She turned down the I.V. to a slow four or five drips a minute and
she left to tell the family who had been waiting in the visitors' area.
Mr. Smith's family fathered outside his room. They sobbed quietly as
the charge nurse spoke to them. Their grief was quiet, personal. I watched
them from the nurse's station. All four children had their father's dark hair
and olive skin. Their faces, though distorted by sadness, retained their in-
herent dignity. I felt a rush of emotion as I looked at their dark sensitive
eyes, their father's eyes. Now I turned away feeling unable to control my
Some minutes later the eldest daughter came to the door of the station.
She told the nurse of the arrangements that had been made for Mr. Smith's
body. They she turned to me. ' 'Please tell me," she said, her voice shak-
ing, "was the end? Was it . . .?"
"Easy?" I asked gently. She nodded. "Yes," I said, "it was very
easy. He just stopped breathing."
"I had to ask," she sobbed. "I needed to know."
I went into the nurse's lounge. I felt a huge responsibility for Mr.
Smith's death. Precious moments had been taken from him by moving
him. It was a burden that I couldn't remove with logic. Another nurse join-
ed me. "Mr. Smith's gone?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered. "I guess changing him was more than he could
bear. I wish we hadn't done it."
"It's the chance you take," she said. "Every time we give the large
doses of medications the doctors order for all these patients with failing
lungs, we wait. The end comes when it comes. What you do means very lit-
tle. You will work hardest at protecting yourself."
In the year since Mr. Smith's death, I have cared for many patients.
During their months of chemotherapy we have exchanged small portions of
our lives and become friends. When they die I am mercifully occupied with
the work that is left to be done.
Each death brings to my quieter moments a feeling of personal loss.
Another life existed and is no more. What I have learned to accept is that
there is for me no coming to terms with the death of an individual. Nursing
is an occupation of giving and caring tempered with the knowledge that in
our mutual struggle for life and health we are as vulnerable as those for
whom we struggle.
Dylan Thomas' "Fern Hill" is a soliloquy, rich in imagery, in which
lost innocence is recalled. Thomas makes much use of alliteration in his
metaphors throughout the work, pairing green with golden, simple with
stars, and white with wanderer. He repeats the duo of green and grass to
achieve different effects. The narrator's childhood was carefree and happy;
he was immortal in his innocence. The world he lived in was beautiful, ver-
dant - a safe and simple place. It was his world, his possession. He was lord
of all he surveyed, and all things danced to his tune. His childhood
memories remain, made perhaps more poignant by his awareness of his own
mortality and insignificance.
The child's attitude toward his world was an egocentric one. The world
was his; he was "prince of the apple towns," "huntsman and herdsman";
he was "famous among the barns." His pastoral surroundings provided
him with material for heroic fantasies, and for him the roles he played were
The farm (the world) existed for him and because he existed. Each
night, "As I rode to sleep," the farm vanished. With his awakening "the
farm, like a wanderer white with the dew, come back" was recreated for
him. Where the farm had gone during the night was not important; that it
was reborn for him anew and anon was sufficient.
The simplicity of the child's perceptions, his unquestioning acceptance
of what his senses told him, is evident in "the nightjars, flying with the
ricks," and in "the whinnying green stable." Stables and ricks, of in-
animate wood, of course neither speak not fly. But the child heard the
sounds, and for him, ricks could take wing, and barns neigh.
His simple world was a safe one as well. Each night as he "rode to
sleep" with owls "bearing the farm away," he slept secure in the aegis of in-
nocence. [The owl is the symbol of Pallas Athena, the protector.]
The illustrations of the child's viewpoint continue. He saw "Fields as
high as the house," the golden grain of the fields towering over him as did
the imposing bulk of the house. He perceived each clearly, each bigger than
he, but saw no need to differentiate between the two. This is the altered
perception of the small child, as opposed to the personifications of the
stable and the ricks.
Green appears as a metaphor again and again in "Fern Hill." It is used
to represent youth, inexperience, and innocence. The narrator was "green
and carefree," "young and easy," and happy, as "happy as the grass was
Thomas also uses green in a denotative sense. There is the green of
"the apple boughs," the verdure of 'daisies and barley," and again the
grass around the house. These greens of springtime and summer are, as are
innocence and youth, ephemeral. The short-lived green of youth is also
referred to in the last lines of the poem, where the narrator tells us that
"Time held me green and dying."
The man the narrator has become expounds, in his ruminations on his
youth, on the wonder of creation and celebrates life. The light in the line
"Down the rivers of the windfall light" can be seen as the light of creation.
Another reference to light appears in the lines dealing with the farm's
return, "Shining, it was Adam and maiden." The image recurs in "And the
sun grew round that very day."
All the elements of Genesis are present in the seventh and eighth stan-
zas. The sun is followed by "the sky gathered again," then Adam and Eve
appear. The Biblical sequence is followed as sun, sky, and life appear. As
in the beginning legend, order comes from chaos, with "the birth of the
simple light/ In the first, spinning place." God created first the beasts,
Genesis tells us, then man. The "spellbound horses walking warm" might
be seen as the first animals, and "the fields of praise" could easily be taken
as the Garden of Eden.
Lines seventeen through twenty-two present a celebration of the
"And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay.
Fields as high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys
it was air
And playing, lovely and watery,
And fire green as grass."
The elements are intermingled, fire moving as might air move, and
described as "watery." The elements are life, the world all of a piece, view-
ed as an harmonious whole. The "it" in "it was running" can be seen as
The child that the narrator brings back in his reverie saw each day as a
new creation, another sabbath. The child, in his innocence, was like Adam
and Eve, the "Adam and maiden" of line thirty. He was without sin, and
immortal. As they fell literally from Grace, so did the child fall, each pay-
ing the penalty for knowledge. The child is all of us, one of the "children
green and golden" who "Follow him out of grace." The "him" that the
children follow is time.
Thomas personifies time, naming him five times. He is alternately kind
and indulgent, remorseless and cruel. "Time let me hail and climb," "Time
let me play and be golden." Time allowed the child to be a child, let him en-
joy youth as he "ran my heedless ways." Time could afford to indulge him,
because time would win.
The references to time prepare the reader for the final lines and the last
personification in the poem. Time had let him play "In the sun that is
young once only," and the child did not care that "time would take me."
The reference to the "children green and golden" indicates a recognition
that we are all subject to time, that we are all mortal, all insignificant. We
must all one day "wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land."
The last two lines of "Fern Hill" form a conclusion. "Time held me
green and dying/ Though I sang in my chains like the sea." reveals the nar-
rator's realization that life and death are inseoerable. As the sea is held in
chains by the land, both its opposite and compliment, so is life by death en-
chained. Each gives meaning and definition to the other, as do light and
If there is a message to be gleaned from this work, it is not only that
none of us will get out of it (life) alive, but that life is all we have. We
should live it to the fullest while we can.
A FISH STORY
While many people fish for food, a great number of us, sport
fishermen, trophy-hunters, and Saturday trollers, do so simply for enter-
tainment. Because most of us are gentle, harmless creatures, I can only con-
clude that if people realized the cruelty of sport fishing, then they would
refrain from practising it. In an effort to increase the awareness of such
people, I ask you to put yourself in the fish's place. Imagine that you are a
hungry young trout, gliding silently through the cool waters of a salty
Georgia creek. You notice a faint, white blur drifting a short distance
ahead of you~a meal-sized shrimp. Eager and unsuspecting, you grab it,
planning to swallow the creature in a gulp before it realizes what has hap-
pened, when suddenly you feel an excruciating pain in your mouth and you
find that you cannot swallow your would-be breakfast. Fighting for all you
are worth, you are nevertheless pulled toward the surface of the waters,
toward that awful void in which the murderously hot, heavy winds blow.
The roof of your mouth is torn and bleeding, but you still cannot free
yourself. At the surface you are hauled into the bright light, driven into
frenzy when you leave the buoyancy of the water and your resulting weight
increase redoubles the pain in your mouth and echoes it with an ache in your
besmothered gills. A dry, rough blanket wraps around you and you are
lifted and turned over a few times, and then the barb is twisted and snatched
from your face. You fall into the cold water again, feeling the salt that
ruthlessly bites at your wound. As the subsequent days pass you cannot eat
with your mangled mouth and a white, prickly infection spreads across your
sides in the places where that dry roughness touched your scales. Whether
or not you heal and live to chance another such experience, your tiny body
struggles to recover and your mind can only wonder, "Why?"
Roses blooming silently in effortless array,
Sunlight trying desperately to penetrate the day,
Wall-to-wall sensations echo through my mind
As a girl who never knew you throws tears into the wind.
Listening to the crashing blows of treacherous pretenses,
Hard, hungry syllables that beat against my senses,
Feeling pain despite the sway of pointless alcohol,
Apathetic clothing starts its long, revealing, fall.
Tranquil, lovely face that I will evermore adore,
Beauty bathed in blackness as the earth resumes its door,
But Spirit! - Spirit, run fast, run free!
And as I offer you my hand, please pause to wait for me.
THE STORY BOX
The shadowy green woods rustled complacently, settling in for another
humid night. The sharp staccato shriek of a jay and the solemn woodwind
tones of a whip-poor-will competed for dominance of the oppresive late-
afternoon silence, but did nothing to disturb the molasses-like malaise that
hung heavy in the air like a coming storm. Encroaching pines stood like
grave sentinels over a tiny wooden shack set between the vaguely menacing
woods and a narrow dirt road. Muscular vines of wisteria embraced the
shack's rusted tin roof, threatening to crush what already sagged beneath
the weight of time.
On the rude wooden porch a one-eyed yellow Tom-cat lay somnolently
watchful, only the occasional flick of its ears betraying it as alive. Nearby
an old woman sat creaking in a rocking chair and lackadaisically fanning
herself with a cardboard fan showing a blurred, four-color picture of Jesus
on one side and an advertisement for a funeral home on the other. As she
rocked, she contemplated with affectionate sternness the little girl who sat
on the steps before her dangling her bare feet in the red Georgia earth. The
girl, round eyes glowing with anticipation as she quietly awaited the story
she knew was to come, clung with sweaty hands to the rough wooden box in
her lap. Beneath the porch, a rasping rainfrog began to chant his rythmic
Without warning, the old woman cleared her throat noisely and spat
over the edge of the porch. The cat started up in alarm, then settled back
down reluctantly, after shooting the woman an accusing look with its one
"Give me the story-box, girl," the old woman said, reaching out her
gnarled hands. "I'll see what I can find to tell you about today."
The girl watched intently as the woman's crooked fingers clumsily
worked the latch, opened the box, and slowly sifted through the articles
contained in it, her face contorting in vivid remembrance. The girl saw and
recognized several things from earlier tales: a crumbling yellow newspaper
clipping, a creased, sepia-toned photograph of a young man, a bit of stain-
ed lace, a strand of green glass beads. Each of these items recalled to her
mind one of her grandmother's colorful stories of the past with the quick-
shifting intensity of a slide projection.
The woman's hand emerged from the box finally, holding a tiny brown
package tied up with a bit of string.
4 'I reckon today I'll tell you about the time me and my daddy watched
the hanging. I don't reckon you'll understand all of it, but there's a lesson
to it, so you listen good, you hear?"
At the girl's eager nod, the old woman frowned, then began.
"Well, it was like this. Me and my daddy were going to town one mor-
ning. It was nearly five miles, and we had to walk the whole way. I must
have been about your age; you're ten, ain't that right? Yes." She paused, a
look of intense reflection on her face.
"Well, anyway, we were walking down the road when all of a sudden
we saw this crowd of people coming round the bend towards us. Must have
been twenty or thirty of them, hollering and shouting and stirring up a great
cloud of dust so you could see and hear them way off. Some of the women
were crying, and a bunch of scrawny, shirt-tail younguns were running
along beside, picking up rocks and slinging them into the midst of the
crowd, laughing and carrying on like they was on a holiday. The whole
crowd was too far away for us to see what all the excitement was about, but
daddy says to me, he says, 'You stick close to me, now. We're gonna see
what this ruckus is all about.' "
Her mouth twitched into a half-smile at the remembrance of her long-
dead father's words; the girl sat motionless, patient.
"When we got up close enough to be heard, my daddy halloed to the
men and asked them what had happened.
" 'We done caught us a nigger,' a man wearing dirty overalls and a
greasy hat told us. 'He's the one what they say raped the Watson girl.'
" 'Yeah,' another said. 'And we aim to make him pay, and pay good.'
She stopped, fingering her chin ruminatively.
"I knew about the Watson girl. She was older than me, but I had seen
her around, at church mostly. She was a real pretty girl, as I remember. At
least, she was before the trouble. Seems they'd found her in the woods, her
dress all torn, and she'd told them what had happened. That had been two
or three days before, and some of the neighbor men had been laying for that
nigger all the time since, waiting to catch him. I was too young then to
know what it was all about exactly, but I knew from the way folks was ac-
ting that it was pretty serious business. Yessir, serious business. She never
was quite right after that."
With unexpected violence, the old woman sprang forward from her
chair and swatted an insect with her fan. "Darn yellow-fly's been biting me
all afternoon," she explained, settling back down. The girl reached out and
absently thumped the squashed fly off the edge of the porch, a preoccupied
look on her face.
"Anyway, as we were standing there talking, one of the women in the
crowd started to wail and cry out, and we looked over at her.
" 'That there's poor old Mrs. Watson, the girl's ma,' the first man told
us. 'She's come along to watch us hang this black bastard. Says she won't
sleep again till she sees him swing. Can't say as I blame her.' " The old
woman nodded, crafty and knowing.
"Daddy pushed through the crowd a ways, dragging me along, so we
could get a look at the man they had caught. We had to fight it pretty rough
to get through that mob, but then suddenly we were before him. I
remember it so good, just like yesterday. There he stood: big and black and
scary-looking, his hands tied behind his back and his feet looped together
with somebody's belt. Two men were holding their rifles to him, and the lit-
tle boys were pelting him with rocks and sticks from all sides. But that nig-
ger never moved a muscle, just stood there looking straight ahead, proud as
a king." She paused pensively, her eyes doubtful, then resolvedly con-
"I remember wondering how they found out he was the man; I guess
they knew what they were doing. I tried to ask daddy, but he just shook his
head at me, like he was angry. I told him I felt sorry for the man, even if he
" 'You ought not feel any more sorry for him than for a mad dog,' he
told me. 'He's a vicious cur, and he has to be put down, for the sake of all
" Tts God's will!' a wild-eyed young man in the crowd shouted. I
recognized him to be the Reverend Taylor's boy. There were a few mur-
murs of 'Amen,' and the rest of the people just nodded their heads in agree-
"I looked up into that colored's face and I knew right then that they
were right. He was scowling at me so mean and fierce, I felt all my pity for
him dry up inside me. I was so scared, I almost wanted to run off into the
woods to get away from him, even if he was tied up. I didn't no more
understand what 'rape' meant than you do, but I sure had sense enough to
know it couldn't be good. Yessir, I remember it like yesterday. I tell you, I
was scared." She looked at the girl with sidelong intensity, as if trying to
judge her reaction.
The yellow Tom-cat stirred lazily, snapping diffidently at a fly buzzing
around its ears, then resumed its sphinx-like posture.
The little girl sat frowning, unable to comprehend her grandmother's
words. As she dug her toes into the soft clay, her grandmother's words dug
into the fertile soil of her young imagination, spoiling her usually sunny
child's face with a dark and troubled shadow of age. Her thoughts were in-
terrupted as the old woman resumed her tale.
"We followed along with the crowd till we came to the spot picked out
for the hanging. By then there must have been fifty or sixty people with us,
and more coming all the time. Somebody had brought a noose-rope, and
they slung it over the limb of a big china-berry tree beside the road. I
remember it was a china-berry tree because I was barefoot, and the dry ber-
ries hurt my feet. Somebody else had an old apple-crate, so they stood it on
end and put the colored man, still tied up, on top of it and dropped the
noose over his head. He didn't move or say a word, just stood there on that
crate looking at the ground and scowling meaner than ever. The man in the
hat asked him did he have any last words to say before he was hung. He still
didn't say nothing, just lifted up his head to look at us all. His chest was
heaving like he was winded, but his proud black face didn't show anything
as he calmly spat at the man in the hat. Then one of the women screamed
and the next thing we knew the Taylor boy had done run up and kicked that
crate right out from under him."
The girl's eyes clouded; her grandmother cleared her throat and went
"He never made a sound, except a little gurgling noise. I heard his
neck snap, and everybody cheered, and then he was just hanging there,
swaying a little, his eyes and tongue bulging out and the flies lighting on
him. A dog started to growl and snap at his feet swinging there. The man in
the hat kicked him, and he went away whining.
"Just then one of the boys ran up and, with a wild yell, started to chop
off one of the dead nigger's fingers with his pocket-knife. It didn't come
off easy, but that boy was determined, and managed to take it off at the se-
cond joint. He said he was keeping it for a trophy, and started running
around showing it to people and scaring the girls. I'll never forget the look
on that boy's face: all proud and manly-like. It's a good thing for a boy to
see justice at work first hand like that. Keeps him from getting any funny
notions. Anyway, he must have given all of them an idea, cause then all the
men started in to cutting parts off that body for momentos. By time my
daddy got close enough, there wasn't much left except a couple of toes, but
he got one for me anyway, and I kept it safe all these years." The old
woman ceased her speech with a final, judgemental nod, a hideous yellow
grin splitting her weathered face obscenelv.
With sick mesmerization, the little girl watched her grandmother slow-
ly unwinding the brown paper package. The old woman held out a two-inch
stump of petrified black flesh, her eyes glowing with pride. The girl took it
and swung it gently back and forth on the bit of cotton string tied around it,
torn between horror and fascination. Tears filled her eyes; tears of shame,
of mourning barely comprehended for ideals lost before fully formed. The
roar of the past in her ears drowned out her grandmother's voice as in the
distance a clap of thunder sounded an answering reverberation.
The cat stretched lanquidly on the rough boards, jumped indifferently
to the ground, and stalked away on sleep- and age-stiffened legs, throwing a
glance of contemptuous deprecation over his shoulder at the grotesque
tableau. As he disappeared from view, a gentle rain began to fall, washing
the dust of the past and the tears of the future together into the river of life.
"My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me."
Yet not your eyes
Look out at me
From a face
That is almost yours.
Could she give them the life
The wide-eyed devoted attention
The facsimile of captivated fascination-
If those eyes could illuminate the world
And even I
Perhaps, for a moment, she could bring you
Although I know she cannot
Bounces, turns upon her head
-Identical in hue-
Distinguishing you from all others
Proclaiming uniqueness in mind and spirit
By the outward physical display.
But though I remain obsessed with the memory
of your surface features,
The incomplete person within you plagues
Those feelings which sought refuge in concealment
-The awareness which desperately sought
alleviation through repress ion-
The insecurities I touched...
The greatest of frustrations has stifled my
Your life, and therefore your
Has been captured.
And to put my pain in stupid, trite phrases
Would lead me to say that
Night has descended upon the sun
And it will never rise again.
To hope for comfort in empty promises of heaven
You had found heaven here-
A better place...
And lastly, mostly,
You took a portion of
Into the earth with
)c jt je jt n j< jc
If you are interested in working on the 1986 Calliope
staff, or in submitting work for consideration in that edition,
please contact Dr. Richard Raymond in the Department of
Languages, Literature and Dramatic Arts, Lower Floor,
Gamble Hall. Calliope welcomes prose, poetry, and nonac-
tion work in all fields, as well as photographs and sketches.
All pieces submitted must be the work of students, staff, or
faculty members of Armstrong State College. Work should
be submitted by the end of Fall Quarter for best chance of
Your future. Your mind ...
m g STATE COLL t<jt